Visitor spending increases in Clark County

Double-digit visitor spending brings double the excitement to Vancouver USA

Vancouver Waterfront walkway
Erica Thompson

“Wow. There are kids playing in the sand, cyclists stopping for a breather, business folks here for happy hour—the diversity of people here at any time of day is astonishing.”

Out-of-area travel writers marveled at the new Vancouver Waterfront at an on-location reception for the Travel & Words Conference in April, appreciating the beauty and value that it brings to the destination. Several even made an additional trip to the new development, witnessing the same range of diversity from young families to retired locals and athletic dog owners to relaxed dinner dates.

The hype of the $1.5 billion project’s Phase 1 grand opening in September 2018 has not died down, and locals and visitors alike are enjoying the photo ops offered by the 75-foot-tall mast and riverside drink and dining locations.

The Waterfront has provided much more than just new eateries and enjoyable views. Even with access to the new development opening in the fourth quarter of last year, visitor spending in Clark County increased more than 15% in 2018, as reported in the Washington State Travel Impacts study conducted by Dean Runyan Associates. This double-digit jump nearly doubled the percent increase from the previous year at 8.2%, with total visitor spending topping $585 million.

As the primary destination marketing organization (DMO) for Vancouver and Clark County, we see the Waterfront paying off in the long term as well. Having the views and experiences of the Waterfront within a half mile of the Convention Center makes our city all the more appealing for meetings and conferences. The Waterfront provides a hook that differentiates the destination, while the food, drink, shopping, walkability and access to nature round out our offering.

The Waterfront is attracting more than just meeting planners, too. The unique development on the Columbia River will help shape Vancouver’s reputation, profile and appeal for years to come. We are already seeing new interest from media, our neighbors south of the river in Portland and regional travelers.

While the Waterfront is an extremely visible icon of our evolving city, it’s not the only exciting new change. After an explosion of breweries in the past half-decade, putting Vancouver’s craft beer scene on the map, the area is now attracting wineries from across the state. Columbia River Gorge standout Maryhill Winery celebrated the opening of its nearly 5,000-square-foot space on the Waterfront last month and Walla Walla-based SuLei Cellars is putting finishing touches on its downtown site. The Southwest Washington Winery Association has seen new additions, like Mended Oak Winery in Battle Ground, gaining traction as an established wine region. All of these changes are evolving Vancouver from a craft brew destination to a craft beverage destination.

This growth is not just limited to the Waterfront and downtown core. The city of Vancouver is set to receive $800,000 for construction of the Fourth Plain Community Commons project, strengthening Vancouver’s international district economically, structurally and communally. This area will serve as a stronger connector between downtown and east Vancouver, while maintaining its own distinct identity.

These new assets and increased visitor interest are coupled with new hotels. The Best Western Premier hosted a grand opening in east Vancouver on May 22 and the slightly more central Residence Inn will turn around its “Do Not Disturb” door hangers next month. Vancouver’s first boutique hotel, Hotel Indigo, is slated to open on the Waterfront in the first quarter of 2020, with the AC Marriott following the subsequent year.

Celebrating these changes, Visit Vancouver USA will launch our latest marketing initiative this summer, targeting visitors, locals and decision makers in Portland. The campaign, dubbed “yeah, that Vancouver,” emphasizes the unexpected and underestimated quality of visitor offerings in the city. Pairing captivating visuals of the new Waterfront with copy that highlights the entire destination, the campaign will include billboards, print advertising, radio broadcasts, digital video, social media and targeted display.

The new Waterfront will be the lure to hook visitors and disperse them throughout the destination, creating economic benefit for the entire community. Building from last year’s successful Waterfront announcing campaign, Visit Vancouver USA will continue to sound the trumpets for our strong and growing city for visitors throughout the region.

Erica Thompson is the communications manager at Visit Vancouver USA. She can be reached at