Tacoma sets its sights on tourists in latest initiative

TACOMA, WA: Tacoma, "America's No.1 Wired City, fresh off a successful PR campaign to rejuvenate its business community, is now targeting tourists.

TACOMA, WA: Tacoma, "America's No.1 Wired City, fresh off a successful PR campaign to rejuvenate its business community, is now targeting tourists.

In 1999, Tacoma launched the "Wired City campaign, and has attracted 2,000 new businesses as a result, a 12% increase over the past two years, said Becky Japhet, Tacoma's economic development marketer.

With the opening of the Museum of Glass, and the forthcoming Tacoma Art Museum, Pioneer Museum of Motor-cycles, and Conference Center, the time is ripe to court tourists.

Working with the Tacoma Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Development Counsellors International, the city is pitching the "Art of Northwest Living in a PR drive that will focus on the area's artistic and outdoor opportunities.

"Having a destination brand makes all the difference, said Ruthie Reinert, the bureau's executive director. "It creates an image you want to protect, and it makes what we do with the media powerful and succinct."

And it appears to be working. On June 25, Tacoma held a media preview of the Museum of Glass for 150 journalists, and saw stories about the town's artistic rejuvenation written by The New York Times, LA Times, and the AP. In addition, the Western chapter of the Society of American Travel Writers will hold its conference in Tacoma next June.

PR and media outreach often works better than advertising, "because it is so much more believable, said Reinert. Previous PR efforts didn't have a particular focus, she added.

Tourists spent about $250 million in Tacoma last year, said Reinert.

PR was invaluable to the "Wired City campaign. If the articles written and broadcast about Tacoma's business community had been ads, it would have cost $850,000, said Japhet.

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