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‘Near nature’ drawing tourists

Fri., May 25, 2012

Marketing company analyzes Spokane efforts’ effectiveness

This story was edited on Friday, May 25 to add the amount paid for the study.

A detailed study of Spokane’s tourism industry has found that the area’s “near nature, near perfect” calling card is working. But the community hasn’t done as much as it can, said Judy Randall, president of Randall Travel Marketing.

Randall’s firm, based in North Carolina, spent the past 12 months looking at travel data and interviewing area groups and visitors.

Randall presented a summary of the report at a meeting hosted Thursday by the Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau. That group, along with Avista Corp., the Public Facilities District, Downtown Spokane Partnership and Spokane Regional Sports Commission, paid $160,000 for the study.

The study noted that Spokane lodging numbers – based on room occupancy – exceeded the national average by 4 percent in 2008 and 2 percent in 2009.

Among the report’s key findings:

• 47 percent of Spokane County’s 7,114 hotel and motel rooms were built before 1980. Randall said that’s a number that needs to be watched, as aging rooms over time can impact tourism.

• Business travelers accounted for the largest share of travel and tourism dollars, accounting for 29.4 percent of lodging occupancy.

• Conventions and meetings account for the next largest segment, at 22.2 percent, according to Randall.

• Leisure travelers – covering shopping, sporting events and entertainment – account for 18 percent of overnight stays at area lodging.

• And 75 percent of all overnight visitors staying at area hotels or motels are adults without children.

Randall’s analysis had several suggestions for improving the appeal of the area. They include: more visually attractive visitor guideposts and information signs for people coming to Spokane through the airport and off Interstate 90.

“You have 45,000 cars going by on the interstate each day. You can develop stronger, better gateway signs that help people get a good idea what the community can offer them,” Randall said.

She also said the area’s economic development groups can work harder with regional tribes, to help develop more visitor interest in native history and local cultures.

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