Thursday, June 22, 2017 This Week's Paper

Tourism chief calls every resident ‘ambassadors’ to the region

Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitor Bureau selected Bennish Brown as the organization’s new president and CEO back in May. He arrived at work in June. He has settled in and drafted his plan of action.

“We need to be cheerleaders externally but also internally,” he said, noting that Pierce County has many attractions and historical sites that even locals do not know much about. “We need local people to be local ambassadors.”

Within the borders of Pierce County lies hidden gems such as Fort Steilacoom, the first military base north of the Columbia River; Lakewold Gardens, a world-renown garden and mansion; Sumner’s rhubarb heritage and festivals, art and car museums large and small, a host of maritime attractions and a mound known as Mount Rainier. 

“Tacoma is the anchor but our job is to market Pierce County and every part of the county has something to offer,” he said. “There is always something going on.”

All of the locations attract visitors in their own right that make up the $880 million a year tourism industry in the area. Brown’s goal is to top $1 billion a year in tourism-related spending in the next few years by promoting those attractions and coordinating marketing efforts for the cultural and natural attractions as well as various outdoor activities found in the county.

“We can do a better job at connecting the dots to do that. People are going to feel that impact,” he said. “If that needle moves up, everyone is going to feel it.”

Brown came to Tacoma after serving the last 12 years as the executive director of Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitor Bureau in South Carolina.

While at that tourism organization, Brown grew the budget from $200,000 to $1.1 million, led the organization to become the first Destination Marketing Association International accredited convention and visitors bureau in the state, managed a merger between the CVB and Sports Commission and hosted a Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament.