Northern Idaho sees growth in travel industry

Experts said tourism is up 32% in northern Idaho and the only area in the state with a growth in the travel industry.

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – If Silverwood Theme Park ticket sales are any indication of what the region can expect for travel and tourism this summer, a great trip is over.

Marketing Director Jordan Carter said ticket sales were 63% higher than pre-COVID 2019 numbers, as reported by our news partner, The Coeur d’Alene Press.

The Travel and Tourism Commission made a positive presentation at the blissful breakfast of the Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber on Tuesday.

Among the speakers were Todd Woodard, Director of Marketing, Spokane International Airport; Bill Reagan, General Manager of Coeur d’Alene Resort; Matt Sawyer, Director of Marketing and Sales, Lookout Pass and Hiawatha Trail; and Kali King, Marketing Director of Hagadone Marine Group.

Carter said Silverwood has “big plans” for the 2022 season, including offering a new train and showing a new saloon. A guest survey indicated that when visitors watch a live show in the park, they are more likely to tell someone about it and quote admission prices favorably.

Seventy-five percent of Silverwood’s visitors are from out of town. 8 to 9 percent are from Canada, Carter said, although that number is a bit low at the moment. Vaccine regulations remaining at the border may cause some reluctance.

Carter said Washington residents have brought a huge amount of business to Silverwood during the pandemic. Since March 12, when the mask mandate was lifted, ticket sales to Washington citizens have fallen significantly.

For the Coeur d’Alene resort, the biggest change they’ve seen recently has been the “business mix,” Reagan said. Leisure travel has been the biggest contributor over the past several years, but the resort is now seeing “greater movements of people” visiting for business.

“We are expecting a very busy year,” he said.

Tourism in northern Idaho is up 32% from last year, Reagan said, and our region is the only area in the state that has seen growth in the travel industry. He said about 23% of the tourism generated across the state comes from the Panhandle.

Coeur d’Alene Visitor Bureau member, Reagan, said about 850,000 people visit his website per month.

Reagan doesn’t deny that staffing shortages are affecting the service industry nationwide, though he doesn’t think it has affected the level of service guests can expect at the resort. He recommends that companies explore ways to balance staff shortages and the influx of tourists.

Manage your list of services, Reagan said. “Make sure your employees are taken care of.”

Avoiding fatigue can be as simple as making sure that we, as residents, take the time to experience what is on offer in and around Coeur d’Alene, he said.

“Go out and have fun. “You deserve to have fun,” Reagan said.

Tourism is the third largest industry in the state, Sawyer said. The Hiawatha Road had about 35,000 visitors five years ago. This number has doubled since then. Those visiting the pass have two main accommodation options: Coeur d’Alene or Wallace.

“The impact of tourism on Coeur d’Alene is enormous,” said Sauer. “Hiawatha is an international track.”

The track will be open seven days a week until September 18, and four overnight rides are planned with the full moon. The Lookout Pass is also putting up another ski lift and expanding the ski runs for the upcoming season.

Woodard said Spokane International Airport is also seeing business growth. Added two new airlines, Sun Country and Aha! , flights from Spokane. In 2019, non-stop flights were introduced to 17 cities, and now the airport serves 21 cities. Seattle and Phoenix are the two largest markets that bring visitors to the area.

King said the pandemic has boosted business in the marine industry. The resort’s cruise business has increased 43% since 2019, and boat rentals are up 33.5%.

“A lot of people have found love to go out,” King said. “People don’t want to stay inside anymore.”

King said menus have been upgraded for all of the resort’s cruises to offer the vegan and gluten-free options many are looking for. Several themed cruises are available, from yoga and mimosa cruises to private candlelit cruises. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Holiday Lights Cruise.

Coeur d’Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more news from our partners, click here.

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