Spokane Journal of Business

Visit Spokane launches mobile visitor information center

Movable unit set to appear at local events this year

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-—Katie Ross
Melissa Skomer-Kafton has been hired as the organization’s visitor engagement specialist attached to Ace. She plans to take the vehicle to events throughout the Spokane area.

Visit Spokane has launched a new mobile visitor information center and has named it Ace, says Visit Spokane President and CEO Cheryl Kilday. 

The organization will use Ace, a Ford Transit van wrapped in Visit Spokane graphics that made its debut at Hoopfest last weekend, to travel to events and promote the Spokane area. 

“We want to use a mobile visitor’s center so we can go where the visitors are,” Kilday says. “The plan in the first phase is to take it to events and activities within Spokane County initially, then look at expanding and take it out of the area where there (are) big groups of people and get them interested in coming to Spokane.”

Visit Spokane purchased the vehicle from Wendle Motors for just over $24,000. Visit Spokane’s in-house designer, Jeremey Armes, created the graphics for the vehicle, which was then wrapped by Designer Decal, of Spokane. 

Kilday says the organization may start taking Ace out of the Spokane area beginning next year. 

“We’ll be able to do some cool things and take partners with us, and really create some promotion around our presence at those events,” Kilday says. 

The mobile visitor center’s name, Ace, comes from the word’s dictionary definition, Kilday says. 

“Ace, the term, means ‘expert’,” she says. “We have our Ace Team, which is our hospitality service and training program, so we named our vehicle Ace … so there’s no ace of spades or ace of clubs; it really is Ace the expert.”

Hypothetically, Kilday says, Ace could be sent to events such as the Winter Festival in Leavenworth, Wash., or to events in the Tri-Cities or Yakima areas.

“We’re trying to find that audience, where they would pause and see us, and have an interactive experience where they could stop and talk to us,” she says. “Engagement will help us convert more travelers.”

Ace, Kilday says, has been in the works for about two years. Along with the new mobile center, Visit Spokane has opened a kiosk in the Spokane Valley Mall for the months of July through September, similar to its kiosk in River Park Square and a kiosk it operates in the Spokane International Airport.

“We have three locations now, and with this new Ace vehicle, four points of physical engagement with customers within Spokane County,” Kilday says. 

Visit Spokane hired Melissa Skomer-Kafton, who formerly worked in social media at the Spokesman-Review, to be the organization’s visitor engagement specialist attached to Ace. For now, Skomer-Kafton is the only employee solely dedicated to the mobile unit. 

“I just love Spokane,” Skomer-Kafton says. “I’m very interested in getting out there and talking to people face-to-face.” 

The organization’s earlier mentioned Ace training program is for people in the hospitality and service industries, Kilday says; the next class is in August. The program involves a two-hour class and a two-hour hosted educational tour, and costs $25, Kilday says. 

“For a long time, we’ve had a hospitality program,” Kilday says. “It used to be part of a program that was nationally accredited; we didn’t own the content …so what we’ve done in the last year is brought it in-house, renamed it, and reworked it.”

The classroom portion of the program is an overview of Spokane County and how to deliver a customer experience, Kilday says. 

“It gets them out from behind the front desk at a hotel or restaurant, and gets them into the experience so they can describe it,” she says. “It’s focused a lot more on the experiential aspect of training, but it incorporates customer service as well.”

Visit Spokane offers the training, or a similar program, about once a month. Together, the class and tour can help participants become better ambassadors for the Spokane area, Kilday says. 

“It’s all about making sure that when a visitor comes to the region, we’re familiar with the whole region, and we can help the visitor connect the dots and get them excited,” she says. “All the people who go through this program become the experts, and that’s why we call it the Ace program.”

Katie Ross
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Reporter Katie Ross covers manufacturing, hospitality, and government at the Journal of Business. An outdoor enthusiast and snowboard fanatic, Katie is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University.  

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