Did Spokane really see an increase in tourism related jobs?
May 13, 2014
Only in Spokane’s bizarro world is a decline considered growth.
Now we seem to have another example of decline = growth.
Here is a chart of employment change in Spokane County from March 2013 to March 2014. This data comes from the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) which gets its data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Tourism is most closely connected to the hospitality (hotels) and restaurant sectors, and a tiny, tiny bit to the retail trade sector.
Note that employment in retail trade is down by -200 jobs year over year, employment in the hospitality (hotels) sector is down by -900 and employment in drinking and eating establishments (restaurants) is down by -200 year over year.
In fact, retail sales tax collections are down 2 percent for the early part of 2014.
Visit Spokane issues a press release:
Visit Spokane announced that Spokane County added 180 jobs in the tourism industry last year, in local retail stores, restaurants, hotels and more. Visit Spokane staff said Washington’s growth in the tourism industry is still slower than the rest of the nation.
Visitors to Spokane have increased so much that Visit Spokane closed its downtown visitor information center in October of 2013 and replaced it with a kiosk in the Riverfront Square mall.
Watch the pea under the thimble. They seem to have lumped together “retail stores, restaurants, hotels AND MORE” to come up with an increase. Yet the proxies for visitors are most closely correlated with the hotel industry and food services, both of which are down year over year.
Perhaps they found a different set of dates over which to do the year over year comparison, rather than the most recent 12 month period for which data is available.
As you can see below:
- Hotel industry employment is down,
- Bloomsday participants are in decline,
- Airport passengers are in a long term decline,
- Convention center attendance is in long term decline.
By objective measures, Spokane tourism is not doing so great.
Proxy Measures of Visitors to Spokane Based on Actual Data
Hospitality (hotels) industry employment in the City of Spokane since 1993 (data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics). Hospitality employment is on par with about a dozen years ago – in other words, no growth in a dozen years.
Passenger usage at the Spokane International Airport since 1990. As you can see, passenger counts are less than they were in about 1994. There has been a slight year over year increase in recent months but this is not included in this chart. Data from the FAA. The Spokane Public Facilities District (aka Convention Center and Arena) is a hoot. Attendance at all facilities is downwards for 15 years. (The first few years of the chart is artificially low due to data not available for all facilities in the first years.)
Spokane Chiefs (Hockey) game attendance
Since 2007-2008, the average per game attendance trend is slightly down. (Source)
We think Hoopfest has shown an increase in attendance and could be another proxy indicator; however, data on long term registrations was not readily available and the crowd size estimates are not reliable.
Just not seeing a big growth in tourism related businesses in the area.