Spokane Journal of Business

Tourism recovery expected to accelerate in 2022

Pent-up demand driving sports, convention action

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Tourism in the Spokane region is expected to roar back in 2022 following two muffled years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eric Sawyer, president and CEO of Spokane Sports Commission, says sports tourism in 2022 could exceed 2019 goals.

“From a sports travel perspective, we’re pretty close to where we were pre-pandemic, the way the numbers are shaking out for 22,” Sawyer says.

About 150,000 visitors — including athletes — will attend sports events the commission is associated with in Spokane next year, Sawyer claims. That’s more than double the 60,000 sports tourists who visited in 2021, and about 20,000 more sports events attendees than visited Spokane in 2019.

“In the first quarter alone next year, we’re going to see 68,000 attendees at events through the winter months,” Sawyer says. “A lot of that is because of the Podium opening.”

Sawyer says the $53 million Podium sports facility, which was completed this fall on Spokane’s North Bank, is exceeding expectations in terms of bookings.

“What we’re finding is that the demand for the indoor track has exceeded all of our expectations, mainly on the collegiate level,” Sawyer says.

Sports events coming to Spokane include the USA Track & Field Indoor Championships and the USA Karate National Championships, among others.

Matt Jensen, corporate director of sales and marketing for the Davenport Hotel Collection, says sports events will help Spokane-area hotels to recoup some of the ongoing lack of business travel.

Jensen says he doesn’t expect the business travel market to return to its full force for a couple of years because many people are still working remotely.

However, leisure travel has returned to 2019 levels, he says, and conventions have begun to reappear.

Meg Winchester, president and CEO of Visit Spokane, says Spokane will host at least 22 large conventions next year. That translates to about $11 million in economic impact, Winchester says.

“We’re looking forward to next year coming close to what 2019 was, which was the best year Spokane had in the hospitality and tourism industry,” Winchester says.

—Virginia Thomas

Virginia Thomas
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Reporter Virginia Thomas has worked at the Journal since 2017 and covers the health care industry. As a reporter, she loves learning about Spokane's many growing industries. She enjoys traveling with her husband, snuggling with her cats, and cross stitching.

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