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Economic impact study shows wine industry is a significant driver of jobs and tourism for Walla Walla County

May 1, 2019 (WALLA WALLA, Wash.) — The Walla Walla Valley wine industry delivers hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact, draws thousands of tourists, and helps create thousands of jobs in Walla Walla and Umatilla counties, according to the “Economic Impact of the Walla Walla Wine Industry,” a study released today that details the importance of wine to the Walla Walla economy.  

Authored by a team led by Dr. Nick Velluzzi of Walla Walla Community College and commissioned by the City of Walla Walla, Port of Walla Walla, Visit Walla Walla, and the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, the study shows the staggering impact the wine industry has on the region.

According to the research, the Walla Walla wine industry directly or indirectly supported 2,484 wine and tourism jobs in 2018 — nearly 10% of all employed Walla Walla County residents — and accounted for labor income of $114 million, an average of $45,894 in annual income per worker. In all, the report estimates wine industry generated some $430 million in business sales and injected $17.4 million in tax revenues into local government coffers.

The study specifically targeted consumers who cited visits to wineries and/or tasting rooms as the primary reason for their trip. Visitors who came to the Valley for purposes other than wine were eliminated from the sample set. The research found that these visitors spent $145 million in 2018 in combined lodging, food and wine expenditures.

“Our research shows that the value contribution of the combined effects of wine production and wine-related tourism in the Walla Walla Valley is immense,” said Velluzzi, the executive director of institutional effectiveness for Walla Walla Community College. “According to these results, the wine industry is clearly one of the most important economic drivers in the region.”

The study — co-authored by Bill Beyers of the University of Washington and Don Morgan of GMA Research Corp. in Bellevue, Wash. — is believed to the be the first of its kind. Researchers examined surveys of visitors to Walla Walla as well as the region’s wineries and tasting rooms taken over the course of 2018 to get a comprehensive view of the combined economic impact of wine production, wine tasting room activity, and tourist activity stimulated by the wine industry in Walla Walla and Umatilla counties. Vineyards were not surveyed as part of the study, which means sales of grapes to other wineries were not included in the study.

The study also estimated the following:

  • Wineries and independent tasting rooms combined to generate revenue of $123 million in 2018 and directly employed 519 people. That generated $25.62 million in labor income, or about $49,364 annually for each worker.
  • 56% of winery revenue came from direct-to-consumer sales via tasting rooms, wine clubs and e-commerce.
  • Wine purchases accounted for $60 million of the $145 million that wine tourists spent during 2018.
  • Wine tourists visited an average of 6.9 wineries and tasting rooms on a typical visit. Visitors spent an average of $812 per trip, including $333 on wine purchases.
  • 60% of survey respondents said they have been visiting the region since at least 2014 and the typical wine visitor averages nearly two trips per year.

“The wine industry is indispensable to the Walla Walla tourism industry,” said Ron Williams, CEO of Visit Walla Walla. “Not only does the wine industry directly attract thousands of visitors each year, it indirectly helps support Walla Walla’s innovative culinary scene and its robust arts and entertainment culture. That helps improve the quality of life for all of us in the Walla Walla Valley, which is also important in making Walla Walla such a unique destination.”

When asked to identify the attributes most closely associated with Walla Walla, among the most frequent responses were the high quality of the wine, friendly, family run wineries, and the number one response, the charming town.

“Our members take great pride in being a valuable contributor to Walla Walla and its surrounding areas,” said Ashley Mahan, chief operating officer of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. “Through their hard work and passion, Walla Walla’s reputation as a world-class wine region has become internationally known. And that has helped the economy thrive for all of us in Walla Walla.”

To view or download the full study, please click here. To learn more about the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and its members, visit wallawallawine.com. For more information on planning a trip or to directly book a visit to Walla Walla, go to visitwallawalla.com.

About Walla Walla:

As the unofficial capital of Washington wine country, Walla Walla is home to more than 120 wineries, a nationally recognized culinary scene, access to an abundance of outdoor recreation, and an arts & entertainment scene that rivals cities many times its size. This community of just over 30,000 residents is known for many things, including its friendliness and hospitality, the quality of its wine, and of course the famous Walla Walla Sweet Onion. An easy and scenic four-hour drive from Seattle, Portland, or Boise, Walla Walla can also be accessed via Alaska Airlines daily non-stop flights from Seattle. For more information and to begin planning a trip to Walla Walla, visit www.visitwallawalla.com.

About the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance:

The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance is a nonprofit wine industry membership organization whose primary mission is the marketing of the Walla Walla Valley’s American Viticultural Area (AVA). The Wine Alliance functions as the leading informational resource for consumers, media and trade interested in learning more about the Valley’s wine industry. For more information, visit www.wallawallawine.com.

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