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Spokane County’s tourism industry surpasses pre-pandemic numbers for first time

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(The Center Square) – Spokane County experienced a notable peak in tourism for 2023, attracting 9.77 million visitors, which generated a total economic impact of approximately $2.3 billion.

Visitors included people who stayed overnight or traveled more than 50 miles to the county; the nearly 10 million people spent $1.5 billion, a 3.9% increase since 2022, according to an Oxford Economics report compiled for Visit Spokane.

Visit Spokane is a nonprofit organization that promotes tourism throughout the region. The group is currently hosting Expo 50, a nine-week-long event commemorating the 50th anniversary of Spokane hosting the 1974 World Fair. At the time, it was the smallest city ever to do so.

City and county officials expect the Expo to bring in a wealth of revenue as it coincided with several high-profile tourism events for the county, including the Bloomsday Race and Hoopfest, which also brought in a lot of tourists in 2023.

That $1.5 billion spent by visitors in 2023 helped support over 17,500 jobs, raising $635 million in labor income. Oxford Economics divided spending into five categories: 28% going toward food and beverage, 25% on lodging, 21% on retail sales, 17% on transportation and 9% on recreation and entertainment.

When further breaking down the figures, visitors spent $4 million daily, sustaining 5% of the total workforce while generating an annual labor income equivalent to around $2,975 when divided amongst each household in Spokane County, according to the report.

While overall spending increased by 3.9% from 2022 to 2023, that increase expanded to 5.8% compared to metrics before the pandemic in 2019. That same year, 9.76 million people visited the county, spending approximately $1.4 billion, amounting to a 0.1% increase in visitor volume and a 5.8% increase in spending from 2019 to 2023, according to the report.

The shift from 2019 to 2023 is relatively insignificant; however, compared to year over year throughout the pandemic, Spokane County made a substantial return in terms of tourism.

Government revenue totaled $399 million in 2023, thanks to visitor spending, with almost 60% of that coming from state and local taxes. According to the report, if that number had been zero, each household in the county would have needed to pay an additional $1,065 to make up for the revenue.

That amount in taxes alone is enough to pay the salaries of 2,600 police officers in the county, according to the report.