Discover Lewis County and Arnett Muldrow representatives took a “whirlwind” visit of tourism spots across Lewis County in June and captured these photos, which were submitted by Economic Alliance of Lewis County Infrastructure Initiatives Program Manager Todd Chaput.
There’s no shortage of things to do in Lewis County, and Discover Lewis County is working to promote those attractions to tourists as part of its mission to support economic development throughout the county.
“Tourism is economic development because (tourists) bring in money and then they leave, so it’s very low infrastructure economic development with a high reward,” said Richard DeBolt, executive director of The Economic Alliance of Lewis County, which replaced the Lewis County government as the leader of Discover Lewis County in October.
The program was initially created and funded by Lewis County as an online tourism effort in 2015.
“The county no longer wanted to manage that countywide program, and when we submitted our application, they felt we were a good fit because we’re a countywide organization,” added Todd Chaput, The Economic Alliance of Lewis County’s infrastructure initiatives program manager.
The Economic Alliance of Lewis County officially began a three-year agreement to manage Discover Lewis County in January, with approximately $180,000 annually in lodging tax (LTAC) funds to manage the program, according to Chaput.
“Our priorities were to do greater outreach and really focus on the east county, as we’re funded by lodging tax and the majority of our lodging tax comes from the east county,” Chaput said.
Lewis County’s biggest tourist draws are the Northwest Sports Hub in Centralia and outdoor recreation sites in unincorporated Lewis County, including Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and Riffe Lake according to Chaput and DeBolt.
“We want to take the people that are coming to the Sports Hub and enhance their visit, have them stay longer and see more of Lewis County and spend more dollars in our community. Thusly, we want those people that are in the east end … to come into Centralia or Chehalis and have dinner and shop,” DeBolt said.
Discover Lewis County is currently focused on promoting overnight stays in East Lewis County, Chaput said, because that is where most of the LTAC dollars come from.
Another reason for that focus, Chaput said, is Centralia and Chehalis each have their own independent tourism-focused Main Street organizations, while popular tourism spots in East Lewis County such as Packwood do not.
“We do include some Centralia and Chehalis in all of our strategic planning because we know eventually that’s the goal to, not to take over their efforts, but to become more holistic in our approach,” Chaput said.
Since taking over Discover Lewis County in October, The Economic Alliance of Lewis County has established a steering committee for the program and hosted roundtables across the county to encourage community engagement.
Additionally, Discover Lewis County is working with the company Arnett Muldrow to collect tourism data and develop a strategic plan.
“We wanted to find a way to develop a strategic plan that can encompass the whole county and drive the market, so hopefully we’ll have some better data when they return with their findings in September,” Chaput said.
For more information, visit https://discoverlewiscounty. com/