Meet & Greet with Visit Spokane’s Rose Noble
~July 20th, 2023
Rose Noble recently stepped into her role as the new CEO of Visit Spokane, taking the helm from Meg Winchester, who retired at the start of the year.
Noble, 40, has been on site at the Visit Spokane offices since May 15, in what she describes as discovery mode, while her husband and three kids prepare to join her here next month from Illinois.
Previously, Noble was the CEO and president of Galena Country Tourism, in Galena, a small town in northwest Illinois with a population of about 3,200.
While Galena is a small midwestern town, it benefits from the Illinois Office of Tourism, which prior to the pandemic had offices in Tokyo, Japan, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Germany. Those offices work to bring people from those markets to Chicago, 160 miles southeast of Galena, as well as do statewide tours of Illinois, with Galena as an idyllic American small-town stop.
Noble holds a bachelor’s in communication with an emphasis on public relations and is accredited as a certified destination management executive through the Washington D.C.-based Destinations International organization.
The Journal recently sat down with Noble to discuss her new role, what prompted her to move from her home state, and what she hopes to accomplish at Visit Spokane.
How did you come to know about the CEO position at Visit Spokane?
Through a recruiter. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been pitched destinations through recruiting services, and most of them I don’t even look. I really enjoyed my position, and if I chose to leave, it would be for a location that would be great for my family and for a position I could learn and grow in. Spokane provided both those options. It just worked out, and the timing was great.
I was able to explore Spokane through the interview process, and I was hands-down ready for the opportunity because of all the product that we have here in such a small footprint—leisure, outdoor activities, food and beverage, a small business scene, community. You don’t usually have all that. You have pieces of it sometimes, but to have it all is impressive.
What drew you to working in this industry?
I didn’t start working for the tourism bureau until my kids were in school and I was a bit tired of working from home. I wanted to get out. I ended up hearing about a marketing position at the tourism bureau. I applied, not knowing much about tourism.
As soon as I landed the job, it was like winning the golden ticket, because the tourism industry is one of the best industries to work for. It’s so open and accepting, and people are willing to share information. In our world, we’re selling the destination, which we don’t own. It’s owned by the locals. Through visitor spending, everything we do elevates the quality of life for the people who live there. Our industry tends to be the voice of inclusion, equity, and diversity.
There is also potential to grow in hospitality, especially in the destination-organization world. I started in 2015 as a marketing and public relations executive. Then I became the marketing director, then interim CEO, then CEO. I was in that position for five years and was starting my sixth.
What are some of the obstacles in the tourism industry?
In this world, you’re constantly dealing with funding issues, people trying to siphon off your funds whether it’s government or other organizations—especially after COVID with the rise of social issues like homelessness and the transient population, affordable housing. Often, others will rationalize that that they can dip into the tourism budget to build infrastructure to attract visitors.
We like to be at the table with our leaders who are creating these budgets and say we 100% agree that there’s infrastructure that needs to be created or repaired. However, if you take away funding from the bureau that’s promoting your city, you’re going to lose a significant amount of income that’s coming through visitors that is helping you build this general budget.
Visit Spokane generated $1.4 billion in visitor spending last year, for example. That’s a lot of money from people who don’t live here, and all that is taxed, which goes back to local governments general budgets.
What are your plans and goals in this role?
We have some open positions we have to fill. We’ve been without a marketing director for almost a year. Once we can fill that role, it’s going to provide a plan for us moving forward.
We are ending a branding and redesign (campaign) that was launched in 2018. It’s time for a refresh. We are also growing our sales team back to what it needs to be. We want to hire someone who can help create a community-engagement plan. We’ve never had a true community-engagement plan with the bureau. That plan would lay out how we are interacting and empowering the community.
Obviously, we’d love to increase funding so we can be creative with seeking specific grants that might be out there and working with local government to see if there are ways to rewrite some ordinances or change some things.
We’re also working on increasing our Tourism Promotion Area funds, which are $4 (per room) for every lodging night. We are looking to increase that to $5. Hoteliers have had a positive response to that request as well as the TPA commission, so right there is going to be a little shot of revenue for us for next year already, which I’m excited about.
One of my priorities I’m working on is our relationship with Spokane Valley. The Valley does not contribute into our TPA now. They have their own. I’d love to get them back to working with us.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.