‘We can start healing a little bit’: Tourism on the mend with state’s full reopening

SPOKANE, Wash. – It’s the first weekend with the state fully reopen. People are enjoying the outdoors, maskless, and restaurants are at 100 percent capacity once again.

Slowly, more people are visiting the Lilac City again.

In her third visit to Spokane from Montana, Catherine Bass felt a different energy coming to see her parents.

“The last time I came, there was nothing open because it was last summer,” she said. “It’s been really fun to see them this time, because it’s a little bit more open and there’s more to do outside of their house.”

VisitSpokane, a tourism organization, is hopeful, seeing more people come out and visit the county. Last year was tough, with fewer people coming through with the pandemic.

“We’re even not sure what tourism is going to look like moving forward. But, we’re thrilled now that the state of Washington is now open 100 percent so we can start healing a little bit,” said Kate Hudson, the public relations manager for VisitSpokane.

COVID-19 dealt a big blow to tourism, but in previous interviews, VisitSpokane said Spokane did better than many other cities the same size.

“Spokane has everything you would want in a city during a pandemic. It has access to outdoor recreation, we’re a smaller city, so there aren’t as many people here. It’s affordable,” Hudson said.

The outdoors are a big attraction in the Inland Northwest. Cara Quien noticed that as the owner of Fun Unlimited.

Even in the pandemic, Quien saw more people renting her kayaks and paddleboards in 2020 compared to 2019.

“We were in lockdown. Recreation outside, it was something we all could do and it was safe. So, there was a big demand for it,” she said.

She says she’s starting to see even more demand this year, thinking it’ll continue into the next year.

VisitSpokane hopes to continue seeing more visitors come to the county for fun, as more concerts and events are being announced.

There is one issue businesses are facing with the state now fully open again; the hospitality industry is having trouble finding workers.

Fun Unlimited is even closing down one day a week instead of opening for seven days because Quien can’t find workers.

“We’ve been shut down practically for over a year. It’s going to take a while for hospitality industry to recover,” Hudson added.

While that’s being worked through right now, Hudson says they are relying on people visiting for fun to lead the way with tourism. Business travel is lagging behind because of the pandemic.

However, she says they are on track to have 2022 packed with more conventions compared to 2019.

“I think everyone feels hopeful for the future now that we’re open,” she said.

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