Our Town

Walla Walla tourism industry continues growth, brings in 580,000 visitors

The downtown streets of Walla Walla are a popular tourist destination, but the Chamber of Commerce said that wasn't always the case.

"The story goes that there was a local winery that won an international award back in the late 90s and that kind of tipped the scale," said Steve Owens, 

The wine industry has slowly exploded over the last 30 years, expanding from five wineries to about 140 today. Wine tastings have become a signature of Walla Walla culture and tourism.

"I've never seen so many wine tasting pavilions in my life," said Jim Granzo. "This town has some very historic, beautiful areas."

Granzo and his wife came to visit Walla Walla from Michigan on a Columbia River cruise. They said although they didn't come for the wine, they can tell it is one of the main attractions of the area. 

Kirstin Boggs, who works at the Visitor's Booth, said most people come for the wine, "but then once they get here they realize they're so much more."

She doesn't think of the visitors as tourists.

"It's just people that get to experience what I get to do every day. They get a sneak peek of small-town charm," said Boggs.

With so many visitors, the downtown area has become hot spot for new businesses.

"It's my job to kind of know what new businesses open up and what's going on and i can't keep track i can't keep up," said Owens. "We've probably got more good restaurants from Palouse Street to Fourth Avenue downtown than we had in Walla Walla 20 years ago."

But many feel the area doesn't look like a tourist destination. It is still filled with mostly mom and pop shops. 

The city of Walla Walla has benefit from the increase in popularity.  

"Last year for example we have pretty good hard data that we saw about 580,000 people come to Walla Walla," said Visit Walla Walla tourism director Ron Williams.

Each visitor spends money in hotels, stores, and restaurants. The incoming money makes a big impact on the growing population of 35,000.

"In 2016 it was about $130 million. That's a lot for us," said WIlliams. 

More Features

KAPP-KVEW Local News

This Week's Circulars