Tourism leaders release annual report; numbers up nearly across all sectors

YAKIMA, Wash.--Yakima Valley Tourism leaders are looking to capitalize on a successful 2016 after they released their annual numbers on Wednesday.

The yearly numbers are in and tourism in the Yakima Valley saw big gains almost across the board in 2016.

The industry brings in over $375 million a year to the region.

Tourism president John Cooper said over 260 million media impressions, up 89 percent from the previous year, helped grab attention from the outside.

"They tend to read the stories and view the stories whether on TV or online so to get those kind of impressions help to build the destination," he said.

Yakima became the destination for conventions of all types last year.

Over 93,000 people came through the convention doors, for everything from music to comics.

Fifty seven conventions were held last year at the Yakima Convention Center, bringing in over $10 million to boost our economy.

A 12% increase in conventions compared to 2015.

Cooper says 2016 was one of the more successful years for tourism in recent memory.

The effect also being felt by local businesses.

Owners from the Carousel Restaurant said when tourism trends upwards, it benefits everyone.

"Our neighbors are affected, the business community's affected. The more people that come into Yakima and recognize what a great little hidden gem and the opportunities here I think it shows in every way," said Carousel owner Kesty Angel.

As for the future, new initiatives like showing off year-round activities are in the works for tourism leaders.

They're even eyeing possible expansion of the convention center.

Ideas they hope build onto the success of one of the valley's most important money makers.

"In all those arenas we're looking at ways to just keep the momentum growing and finding new ways to bring visitors to town," Cooper said.

Other notes from the 2016 annual tourism report:

-The largest convention was the Washington Music Educators Association State Conference (over 2,000 attendees)

-Group sales booked 31,350 future hotel room reservations (up 20% from 2015)

-The Sports Commission said economic impact of sports in Yakima Valley was $46 million (7% increase from 2015) with 535 sporting events held

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