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More tourism spending is helping the Yakima Valley economy

More tourism spending is helping the Yakima Valley economy

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. - Yakima Valley Tourism says visitors spent more than $400 million in Yakima County last year.

That number is up 7.2 percent from 2016 and nine percent from 2015.

Yakima Valley Tourism President John Cooper said there is one thing that seems to be attracting people to the area the most, the wineries.

"We've noticed that leisure travel continues to grow," Cooper said. "People coming here to enjoy our wines, our beer culture, our various festivals and events but likewise sports tourism continues to grow."

One local winery in downtown Yakima said they are noticing the increase in tourism. Manager of Kana Winery Chris Berk said he meets people who come to his winery from all over the world.

"Just yesterday a couple of Finnish college students that were on a backpacking tour of the western United States and had gone through Yellowstone and now were passing though Washington," Berk said. "We are known for wine so when they were stopping here, they passed though all of the wineries that were available to stop into."

Berk said so far this year, Kana is on track to do better than last year and he thinks the success is going to continue.

"From 2016 to 2017 to now 2018, every single quarter has shown improvement from previous one," he said. "We're up probably seven or eight percent overall from this point in 2017."

Cooper said this overall growth is helping our economy and helps pay for some of the services in our community.

"Visitors now generate about $38 million in local and state taxes," he said. "This is great for our citizens because they're helping support the services with those taxes that we all enjoy, whether it be police and fire services, roads and parks."

Cooper said the travel industry also employs 3,850 people right here in the valley.

Yakima County's visitor spending is just slightly above the average for the state of Washington.

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