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Visit Rainier boosts local tourism

Find your happy side.

It’s one of the slogans Visit Rainier hopes will draw more people to visit Mount Rainier and stay and play in its surrounding communities.

“People in the Puget Sound area all have a very special relationship with Mount Rainier. They all think it’s their own,” said Mary Kay Nelson, Visit Rainier executive director.

Visit Rainier, a nonprofit, nonmembership organization, gives stakeholders an opportunity to pool their resources for one voice.

Approximately 75 stakeholders attended a Jan. 19 meeting at Northwest Trek in Eatonville. Local representation came from Buckley Mayor Pat Johnson, Enumclaw Mayor Liz Reynolds, Enumclaw Expo Center Manager Kristen Damazio, Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce Director Tracy McCallum, Justus Hyatt and Tiana Enger of Ski Crystal, Trip Hart from the Chinook Scenic Byway, Rehne Copeland-Vanek of Crystal Mountain Lodging, Dee Patterson of Crystal Mountain Hotels and Steve and Vivian Cadematori of Alta Crystal Resort.

Visit Rainier currently draws its boundaries around Mount Rainier National Park with representation from the southern corridor, Highway 12; western corridor, Highways 161, 7 and 706; northwestern corridor Highways 162 and 165; and the northern corridor, state Route 410.

Visit Rainier incorporated in 2005 to become the official destination marketing organization for the Mount Rainier region.

Patterson, Steve Cadematori and Copeland-Vanek are part of Visit Rainier’s seven-person board.

The organization works with the National Parks Service to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate a comprehensive tourism-marketing program to make the Mount Rainier region a priority tourists and convention destination. Other objectives include increasing the number of visitor day and night stays at area lodging and increase use of area restaurants, events, and attractions; increasing participation in local arts, heritage cultural business and natural resources venues to profit the local economy.

They call it putting heads in beds and it’s the group’s top priority. Filling hotels rooms generates lodging tax, which supplies 95 percent of its funding. Putting heads in beds also trickles down to restaurants and local attractions.

Visit Rainier’s three-person staff uses approximately 80 percent of its budget for marketing and promotion. Its target audience is a three- to four-hour drive from the mountain with the emphasis on Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California and British Columbia.

Launching its website, www.visitrainier.com, in March has put the mountain and its activities at visitors’ fingertips.

At the peak of the tourist season, July, the website received 40,000 hits. Halfway through January, there have been 20,000.

Nearly 80 percent of those visiting the site are from the Puget Sound area. Another 8 percent are from the Portland/Vancouver area; 4 percent from eastern Washington and 3 percent, thanks to a targeted marketing campaign, from Los Angeles.

The lodging page and its 63 properties, including those at Crystal Mountain and Alta Crystal, are among the top visits. The hiking section, which features 72 hikes inside and outside Mount Rainier National Park, is another popular on-site destination.

The hikes are categories by mileage, elevation and location, or by easy, moderate or difficult. Hikes are also sorted by dog- and kid-friendly.

Mount Rainier has a starring role in 27 YouTube videos, is the topic of a blog and has a Facebook page. Visitors can also receive regular tweets about conditions, events and hikes on Twitter.

Coming soon are an online consumer newsletter and a Mattress Sale promotion, which will offer last-minute hotel deals for a 24-hour period beginning at noon Thursdays.

Eventually, Visit Rainier would like to add community pages for cities like Enumclaw and Buckley.

Ski season is under way, but local group’s are looking forward to the spring and summer season. Crystal Mountain will stay open during the summer and run its gondola to the Summit House, along with offering hiking and maybe mountain biking.

Sunrise will celebrate its reopening and the Mather Memorial Highway has a new vista.

Mount Rainier Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said the park has turned the Carbon River Road to Itsup Creek, which is permanently closed to traffic, into a family-friendly hiking and biking road.

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