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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Covets Tourists From The Lone Star State

Spokane will see more Texan tourists strolling the streets if a new campaign pays off.

A growing number of visitors from Texas has spurred tourism officials to plan a visit to the Lone Star state next spring.

“Everybody’s seeing this Texas group,” said Linda Miller, communications manager for the Spokane Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Miller will go on a whirlwind trip through Texas next spring, pitching Spokane as a tourism destination.

She’ll visit major newspapers and travel publications in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. Miller might be joined by tourism officials from Seattle on the trip.

“It works really well to present the whole state,” Miller said. “Most people’s image of the Northwest is Seattle, the San Juans and the Olympic Peninsula. They don’t know about the rest of the state.”

Spokane’s tourism people don’t jet off to different states every day. The “media blitz” of Texas will be only the bureau’s second in five years, Miller said.

“Blitz is the appropriate word,” Miller said. “You go in and spend a half hour to an hour with these folks, then you move on.”

The greatest number of tourists in Spokane come from Washington and states near it - Idaho, Montana and California. Of farther-away states, however, Texas has been climbing fast in numbers of visitors and inquiries to visitor centers.

That’s true statewide, as well.

Texas is one of the top 10 states pouring visitors into the Seattle area, said David Blandford, director of media relations for Seattle’s convention and visitors bureau.

“Texans have a lot of money,” Blandford said. “They like to travel, especially in the summertime when it’s hot down there. Mountains and rivers can be very appealing.”

In March, the Seattle-King County Convention and Visitors Bureau did its first “media blitz” of the Lone Star state, Blandford said. Every year, the Seattle bureau does trips to Northern and Southern California and New York City.

Spokane, however, can’t afford numerous trips, Miller said. The visit to Northern California by Spokane tourism officials in May was the first in five years.

“We don’t because we don’t have the budget,” Miller said. “We don’t just jump on a plane because we think we can sell someone on Spokane.”

That’s what makes the Texas trip special. Tourism officials have decided visits by Texans are constant enough to warrant a little extra attention.

Some in the tourism and hospitality business in Spokane have noticed an increase in visitors from Texas.

“We just opened (today) and my station’s already full of them,” said Jenny Stonum, a waitress at Cyrus O’Leary’s, a popular downtown restaurant. Stonum said she’s served a lot of customers who say they’re either visiting or moving here from Texas.

No Spokane focus groups have studied why Texans choose the Northwest as their vacation destination, Miller said, but contributing factors are the availability of direct flights and differences in climate and landscape.

The visitors bureau plans to begin interviewing visitors from Texas this summer about why they visit the Northwest.

A media blitz can go a long way toward getting free advertising in the form of articles in local and national publications, Miller said, because the visitors bureau’s advertising budget only goes so far.

“Texas is all of a sudden coming up from the lower ranks,” Miller said.

North Idaho tourism officials have seen a slight increase in visitors from Texas, but not enough to warrant additional marketing, said Nancy DiGiammarco, head of the Kootenai County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The biggest markets for North Idaho tourism are Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California and Canada, DiGiammarco said.

“The numbers (from Texas) are not high enough in the North Idaho area for us to start targeting them,” she said.

Other states that rank high in numbers of visits to the Spokane area are: Florida, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Among other countries, Germany ranks highest in number of visits after Canada.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Favorite places

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