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Tourism groups get a few pointers

Fri., Jan. 19, 2007

Two of Spokane’s biggest tourism entities are doing lots of things right — but if they want to maximize profits they’ll need to fortify their working relationship and tweak their respective operations for a competitive edge.

Those recommendations come from a 27-page best practices study of convention sales and operations conducted by the Radcliffe Company.

The Spokane Public Facilities District, which operates the new Convention Center, and the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, which helps book the new facility, commissioned the joint report, released last week.

It identifies plusses and minuses in the Spokane market and compares Spokane with a half-dozen competitors: Albuquerque, Boise, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Tacoma.

“The size of Spokane’s Convention Center allows it to compete for 80 percent of the business nationally,” Dave Radcliffe, the report’s author, told the PFD’s board of directors at a meeting Thursday.

But relatively limited air service, lack of a major chain hotel downtown and the fact that most people outside the region don’t know where Spokane is and what it has to offer are obstacles to bringing visitors in from the East, the report said.

To maximize bookings and profits, the two tourism groups should make some improvements and changes, said Radcliffe, a longtime hospitality industry consultant and former director of Spokane’s CVB.

Among the suggestions:

“ Invest in new, mutually-accessible software to centralize Convention Center bookings.

“ Increase spending on advertising, marketing and convention sales.

“ Mine the Western market more and pull out of Washington, D.C.

“ Provide on-going training to the CVB sales staff.

“ Package all fees on Convention Center rentals and provide some complimentary meeting space to paying exhibitors.

Johnna Boxley, general manager of the Convention Center, said the report identifies challenges she and her staff will work on.

“We want to distinguish ourselves as the best Convention Center in the area,” Boxley said.

The CVB plans to bring Radcliffe in to train its sales staff and considers the report a valuable road map, said Keith Backsen, CVB vice president and director of convention sales.

In addition, both organizations will meet in the coming weeks to discuss the report’s recommendations.


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