WSU Tri-Cities class project focuses on boosting local millennial tourism

RICHLAND, Wash. — Since the beginning of March, visitor spending in Washington state has declined by almost $4 billion compared to last year. And even before the pandemic started, students at WSU Tri-Cities were coming up with ideas on how to boost local tourism.

“A lot of us Tri-Citians, we’ll be in our homes complaining like, “Oh there’s nothing to do, it’s so boring,” said Abraham Mendoza, who just graduated from WSU Tri-Cities. “To be honest if we actually do some digging, there’s a lot of stuff you can do out there.”

One of Mendoza’s final projects in Marketing Management 495 focused on how to boost tourism locally, specifically among millennials.

“We were given two personas from the Washington Tourism Alliance,” said Joan Giese, clinical associate professor and business and marketing insights coordinator at WSU Tri-Cities. “One was married with children and the other was single…looking for more activities and more social events.”

Michael Novakovich, president and CEO of Visit Tri-Cities, took students on a tour of local attractions as a way to research.

“I felt like a tourist in my own hometown,” said Mendoza.

However, the project started the beginning of spring semester — and by mid-March — students were sent home.

“Not only did the students have to convert to having class sessions on Zoom, we pivoted the project so that we could focus more on what this destination marketing plan would look like when we begin to reopen,” said Giese.

The students had different focuses which led to different ideas. For example, boosting advertising on social media platforms and offering spaces for children at local wineries so that more families could enjoy them. Another idea was to create a Tri-Cities pass – similar to Seattle’s CityPASS.

A slide from the WSU Tri-Cities marketing class with suggestions for the Tri-Cities Pass.

A slide from the WSU Tri-Cities marketing class with suggestions for the Tri-Cities Pass.

It would offer different packages depending on what activities someone likes and how much they want to spend.

“There’s a lot of stuff here but the reason we maybe complain a lot is because it’s not organized as it should be,” said Mendoza.

By the end of the semester, the students presented their ideas to the Washington Tourism Alliance and Visit Tri-Cities, receiving positive feedback.

They also received a fresh appreciation for what’s right in their own backyard.

“It was an eye opener,” said Giese. “It wasn’t so much about the grade; it was about actually doing some very relevant work that was considered important by people working in this industry.”

Novakovich reviewed some of the students’ ideas and said they plan to incorporate those ideas in their future planning.