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The Skagit Tourism Bureau, a new organization dedicated to marketing Skagit County as a travel destination, has hired its first CEO. 

Jake Buganski will start in the position Nov 1.

Buganski was most recently the vice president of strategy at Tempest, a Philadelphia-based digital marketing and customer relationship management company for the travel and tourism industry, according to a news release. He previously worked in the tourism industry in New Jersey and New York. 

In an interview Friday, Buganski said he hopes to capitalize on Skagit County's proximity to major metropolitan areas.

"We can get the folks who are doing day trips to Seattle and Vancouver (British Columbia) to stay for a night or two, and link together some of the different tourism assets in the county," he said. 

Buganski said Skagit County already has a well-developed tourism industry around agriculture and natural resources, and a diversity of businesses.

The Skagit Tourism Bureau will collaborate with hotels, municipalities, chambers of commerce and the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County on marketing efforts.

The new organization is funded by the county's Tourism Promotion Area (TPA), a $2-per-night room fee for hotels with 40 or more units. 

The new room fee, which began January, has collected $215,275 through September, said Kristen Keltz, a member of the TPA advisory and hiring committee. 

After years of discussion, the Skagit County Board of Commissioners voted in 2020 to establish the TPA. 

Keltz said Skagit County was one of the few counties in the state that didn't have a destination marketing organization. 

"Tourism is a huge impact to our communities, not just hotels, but restaurants and attractions, and employs a lot of our friends and neighbors," she said. 

In the news release, Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki said the hiring of Buganski is good timing. 

“Our hospitality industry needs a boost now more than ever,” she said. “It is the perfect moment to put the Skagit Tourism Bureau into action.”

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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