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blank 06/28/10 12:28PM Aviation Museum, Events, General Aviation Day, P-51 Tomahawk, Paine Field, Snohomish Airport, Warbirds, WWII

In unreliable tourism climate, Snohomish County banks on aviation

By Mike Benbow
Herald Writer

With tourism still struggling in Snohomish County, promoters are going with a tried and true topic for this summer — aviation.

So far this year, tourism has had a tough time, with hotel stays decreasing from last year's numbers, said Amy Spain, director of the county's tourism bureau.

But Spain said King County has seen improved numbers for the past three months and that Snohomish County shouldn't be far behind.

“We're definitely coming out of the slide,” she said.

With the recession squelching a lot of growth, there are few new features this summer in the county's tourism landscape. “There isn't a lot of development going on right now,” Spain said.

There is a new hotel going up in Bothell, and Mukilteo opened a new hotel earlier this year.

The county's biggest tourism attraction, and also one of the biggest in the state, has always been the tour of the Boeing Co.'s Everett plant, which draws thousands of visitors.

Spain said her agency hopes to expand on that interest this summer by promoting the county's many aviation venues. The bureau recently published a new “Aviation Adventures” guide to be offered in hotels and at aviation museums and events.

“We thought they could start referring business to each other,” Spain said.

Activities started May 15 with General Aviation Day at Paine Field in Everett. They follow with the Arlington Fly-In at the Arlington Airport on July 7-10 and the Vintage Aircraft Weekend at Paine Field Sept. 4 and Sept. 5.

The Flying Heritage Collection of vintage aircraft at Paine will have fly days July 10 and 24, Aug. 7 and 28, and Sept. 11 and 25, weather permitting. And the Historic Flight Restoration Center, also at Paine, plans flights on summer weekends, also weather permitting.

The Tulalip Tribes had hoped to open its Hebolb tribal museum this summer, but has delayed those plans, Spain said.

The Tulalips will host the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association's annual convention Sept. 19-22. The nonprofit group helps tribal groups develop their tourism programs to attract both domestic and international travelers.

The conference will include a variety of sessions on things like developing a national scenic byway program and accessing business development money from the Small Business Administration.

As hosts, the Tulalips will be showcased this year.

Staci Eagle Elk of the association said that native tourism is building.

“It's growing by leaps and bounds,” she said.

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