With Bloomsday and Hoopfest coming up, Spokane is about to see an influx of tourists. They're in luck if they get lost or have a question because the city has 1,200 everyday citizens trained to be experts on everything Spokane.
Spokane is the only city in Washington State to train its citizens to be Certified Tourism Ambassadors (CTA). The National Program teaches students everything from a city's history to how to interact with a newcomer.
At first glance, you might not notice, but Rebecca Bishop is one of them – a CTA. Her gold star pin gives it away.
“No secret hand shake but we do kind of give a nod because it's, you know, something to be proud of,” Bishop said about passing fellow CTA's.
As an employee of the Museum of Modern Arts and Culture, Bishop though it fit she become a CTA and took the day-long class and stringent test to do it. Her hard work has paid off as she has been nominated for CTA of the year.
“It signifies that I'm involved, that I'm aware, that I care about this community,” Bishop said.
Spokane is making it easy for Bishop and others to care. While state tourism spending was only up 2.6 percent, Spokane's crew 7 percent. That equals $870 Million tourist dollars.
“We had a pretty good year, yes!” Cheryl Kilday exclaimed.
Kilday is the President and CEO of Visit Spokane, which is the organization responsible for bringing CTA's to Spokane.
“You have to pass a test with a very high standard of, you know, it's not like just anybody can sort of go in and do it, you really have to read the materials, participate in the class and then take the test,” Kilday said.
The CTA army is now 1,200 Spokanites strong, including Kilday.
“I always joke that it's sort of like answering the question, what did the visitor ask, give that answer and then ask 'would you like a side of Spokane with that?'” Kilday said.
CTA's are everywhere and ready to answer your questions about Spokane anytime.
“When you're having a meal and you see someone with a map, there's always an opportunity to share, to offer and share information,” Bishop said.
It's Spokane pride like this that Kilday believes keeps the tourists coming back, on average, 20 times in their life.
“When [tourists] spend their money they are also paying taxes and it's over $60 Million dollars that they're paying on our behalf so when you encounter a visitor we should all be saying 'hello' and 'welcome to Spokane',” Kilday said with a smile.
If you're interested in signing up for a CTA class, visit the national website.