Tourism is expected to rebound here in 2010, boosted by a number of big-ticket sporting events, along with several first-time bookings of national conventions and the return of some popular tourist events.
"It's going to be a remarkable year," says Harry Sladich, president and CEO of the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We think 2010 is going to be very similar to some of our banner years." A key ingredient of the industry's projected success will be starting off the year with the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which will boost room nights at a typically slow time of year, Sladich says.
He credits the anticipated boom year to the efforts of Spokane tourism entities such as the Spokane Regional Sports Commission and the Spokane Public Facilities District.
"The PFD did a phenomenal job getting Walking With Dinosaurs back" for a second series of shows this spring, Sladich says. "That sold out all six nights last time, and these are events that draw people from out of town."
The PFD anticipates a strong year for its Spokane Convention Center and Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, while 2010 bookings for the INB Performing Arts Center are down slightly, says Kevin Twohig, the district's executive director.
Still, he says, "I think we'll have higher revenue and a better outcome in 2010 than in '09." He adds that the community's tourist industry has fared comparatively well through the recession.
"The big story for Spokane is, everybody's downwe're just not as down as everybody else," Twohig says.
Says Suzanne Boyce, director of sponsorship and communications for the Spokane Regional Sports Commission, "Between figure skating and five other events, we are looking at a collective economic impact of a little over $30 million." Comparatively, the commission estimates that events it brought here in 2009 will have had about $17 million in economic impact. The commission's estimates don't include impacts from Hoopfest and Bloomsday, because it isn't as involved with those events.
Sports event attraction here has always been cyclical, Boyce says. "You'll have a really great year, then a down year," she says. The 2009 schedule has been lighter, while 2010 looks to be brisk, with six national championship events to be hosted here. They are the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the USATF Cross Country National Championships, the U.S.A. Judo Scholastic National Championship, the U.S.A. Field Archery National Championships, the 15K U.S.A. Trail Running National Championships, and the American Legion World Series Baseball.
Sladich says Spokane's hotel occupancy rate for 2009 is off about 5 percent from the previous year, but hotels here have held their room rates, offsetting the dip. Coeur d'Alene's Chamber of Commerce says lodging is off about 20 percent for the year in Kootenai County, but it's hopeful for an uptick next summer after sluggish spring convention bookings.
Sladich says that layered onto the big-ticket events is a recent uptick in both business travel and individual travelespecially of tourists from Canada and Montanawhich Sladich calls the bread and butter of tourism here.
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