Spokane ‘on the map’ for tourists
Visitors to Spokane County shelled out nearly $689 million here last year, up nearly $37 million from 2004, according to figures released Friday by the Washington state tourism office.
Numbers are gleaned from a state-commissioned annual report compiled by Dean Runyan Associates.
“Spokane is on the map because of all the neat things that are occurring – the venues and assets we didn’t have five years ago,” said Harry Sladich, president and chief executive officer of the Spokane Convention and Visitors Bureau.
He said the new convention center, last year’s popular “Lion King” production, new restaurants and arts and cultural events helped generate record visitor spending in 2005.
As a result the county enjoyed an infusion of nearly $53 million in taxes — almost $3 million more than in 2004.
Figures show Spokane County took in nearly $362 million from hotel and motel bookings, an increase of nearly $13 million from the previous year but far behind King County’s $ 2.7 billion.
Sladich said the bureau’s annual bus tours to cities within driving distances help drum up interest.
“We’re the big city amongst those communities. They’re a critical market to us,” he said.
In fact, day trippers to Spokane County dropped about $134 million, those staying in private homes shelled out $178 million and campers spent nearly $12 million last year.
The number of tourism-related jobs totaled 9,460, nearly even with the year before. Of those, 4,910 people worked in hotel, motel and food service businesses; 2,850 were employed in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries; and 970 worked in retail. The rest were employed by transportation companies and travel agencies.
In turn, those peoples’ salaries rippled across the region’s economy as they paid for housing and related purchases, Sladich said.
The future looks bright, too. The 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, to be held in Spokane in January, ensure next year will begin with a bang, Sladich said.