The region from Spokane to Missoula could one day be marketed as Interstate 90’s “Silver Line,” with tourism attractions highlighted at every exit.
That idea came from Hartley Kruger, president of the Spokane Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was quickly dubbed the “Silver Line” by Jim Betty, a representative of Missoula’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The idea was one of the results of the Silver Country Tourism Summit on Friday in Wallace. The summit brought together tourism officials, government representatives and business people from Washington, Idaho and Montana, all seeking ways to jointly market the region.
“The trends are coming our way to position our area as a leading worldwide tourism destination,” said Tom Magnuson, president of Silver Country tourism company and organizer of the event.
Magnuson referred to the region as the “world’s largest Eco-Disneyland” and said that, for vacationers, the mountain region could become the “Waikiki of the 21st century.”
In 1995, Silver Country was formed to market North Idaho and Western Montana. Its first project was promoting 1,000 miles of trail in the region for mixed recreational use.
Silver Country and Spokane’s tourism organization formed an alliance last month, agreeing to pool resources to jointly market the region.
David Wright, supervisor of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, said work is progressing on the Route of the Hiawatha, a 45-mile trail system that includes the two-mile Taft Tunnel on the Montana-Idaho border.
A meeting will be held May 29 in Wallace to review details. The Idaho side of the attraction should open within a year, said Jamie Schmidt, of the U.S. Forest Service’s Avery Ranger District.
Kruger said considering all the region has to offer, tourism organizations haven’t done all they can to market it.
Kruger also suggested that perhaps this summit represented formation of a new organization that would continue to work on regional marketing.
Carl Wilgus, director of the Idaho Travel Council, cautioned the group to always look at the region from a visitor’s perspective.
Tourism officials have to consider attracting more varied and culturally diverse groups of people if they want to succeed, he said, pointing out that visits to national parks were down last year.
“This summer is important to see if that turns around,” Wilgus said.