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Doubletree’s Arrival Gives Spokane’s Visitor Industry Added Visibility

Spokane’s Red Lion hotels officially became Doubletree hotels last week. Their new names are Doubletree City Center and Doubletree Spokane Valley.

With the simultaneous reflagging of three Red Lions facilities in the Puget Sound area, Doubletree lays claim to the title of biggest owner/operated hotel group in the region.

It’s all part of the reconfiguration of 50 former Red Lions acquired by Doubletree for $1.2 billion. That makes Doubletree one of the largest hotel management companies in the nation, with about 250 locations in 39 states, totaling more than 55,000 rooms.

The company is investing $6 million in a make-over of the downtown Doubletree and $1 million in the Spokane Valley hotel.

Analysts say the synthesis of Doubletree and Red Lion creates the critical mass to be more competitive in the hospitality industry, with a national advertising campaign, national customer base, locations across the nation, and a single reservations system.

“The Red Lions did a great job in the West,” says Hartly Kruger, president of the Spokane Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “But Red Lion was regional.

“Doubletree takes us national. This very dynamic and highly respected national player has offered to work with us through their regional offices all over the nation to help identify larger national organizations that we hope to sell on coming to Spokane.”

Seattle analyst Wolfgang Rood agrees with Kruger that Doubletree represents a step up in stature for the Spokane visitor industry. The senior partner in Gordon/Rood Hospitality Consulting said Doubletree, while not as well known in this region yet, is carving out a “big brand name” of the Hilton and Hyatt caliber.

The Sheraton, as the hotel was known from the time it was erected in 1974 until Red Lion took over a while ago, was a national brand in name only, Rood says. Operated strictly as a franchise, the Sheraton-Spokane lacked the marketing and conventions connections of a company-owned Sheraton.

But the new Doubletree will exercise the clout of a large company-owned hospitality chain with one reservation number covering the entire national system of hundreds of locations, Kruger and Rood both agreed. They said Spokane also will benefit from a large-scale national advertising and marketing push.

New inductees boost ranks of PR execs

The number of accredited public relations professionals in Spokane has just doubled, reports the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Jennifer West, Chris Eriksen and Leni Selvaggio have passed a rigorous two-day examination leading to accreditation, according to PRSA, the world’s largest organization for public relations practitioners, with 17,000 members.

The new inductees bring to six the complement of accredited professionals in the Greater Spokane Chapter of PRSA. The other three are Ken Degerness, and Cher and Jim Desautel, all of whom run independent agencies.

West is president of Rockey-West Public Relations of Spokane. Eriksen is director of public relations for Rockwood Clinic. Selvaggio is corporate communications manager of Olivetti North America in Spokane.

Spokane edges up on Money list

For the record, Spokane is number 257 on Money magazine’s annual ranking of the best places in the United States in which to live. That’s up from 281st last year in a field of 300.

No. 1 Nashua and two other New Hampshire communities garnered half of the top six slots. Davenport, Iowa, ranks 300.

The Northwest doesn’t fare well in Money’s ratings this year.

Critics charge Money with relying so heavily on short-term economic factors that its ratings fluctuate insanely. For example, Fargo, N.D., plummeted from 14 to 186 this year.

Exercise show for elders honored

Sit and Be Fit, billed as the only televised exercise show in America expressly for older adults and others with limited mobility, is the American Society on Aging’s 1997 Small Business of the Year Award winner.

Mary Ann Wilson, a Spokane registered nurse working as a fitness instructor in 1985, created a program of exercises that can be done in a chair. Today the program, a half-hour full-body workout, appears on more than 100 public television stations across the nation.

Wilson’s company markets 19 videos and audio tapes, along with a wide range of exercise products suitable for older consumers at various fitness levels. Specialized videos are available for those with arthritis, stroke, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes a notes column each Wednesday. If you have business items of regional interest for future columns, call 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes a notes column each Wednesday. If you have business items of regional interest for future columns, call 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review