Reminder: Bellingham officials look for new big event to draw tourism, business

The city still is looking for ideas for a new “signature event” that will bring tourists to town to fill up hotel rooms and boost business, as well as highlight the many things Bellingham has going for it.

Applicants have less than two weeks left to submit their ideas for events that are unlike anything already done here or in nearby cities: The deadline to turn in proposals is 5 p.m. Feb. 13.

No one had turned in a proposal as of Friday, Jan. 30. Shannon Taysi, of the city’s Planning and Community Development department, said she suspected many would turn in their applications closer to the deadline.

The city is looking to get one or more events off the ground with up to $75,000 in lodging tax from hotel and motel visitors that has been set aside for 2015, and up to $50,000 in 2016 and 2017.

Bellingham already plays host to many local events, including the annual Ski to Sea race from Mt. Baker Ski Area to Bellingham Bay that takes place each May.

City staff members are hoping one or more groups might have an idea for an event that would similarly highlight the area’s strengths, such as outdoor activities, arts, food and culture, particularly during the off-season between September and March.

The city also is open to helping grow smaller, relatively new events that are already held here, Taysi said.

The application, which is available online at cob.org/services/business/tourism-rfp.aspx, points out that in previous peak seasons, visitors have had to find places to stay outside of Whatcom County because all of the city’s hotel rooms were full.

There are 650 rooms – a 50 percent increase in capacity – that either recently opened or are planned to open soon, including rooms at a handful of hotels that have popped up in north Bellingham near the airport and major retailers.

The online application includes detailed information about how entries will be scored and what types of activities could be covered with the city’s seed money. No late entries will be considered.

For questions, call Taysi at 360-778-8360 or email staysi@cob.org.