SPOKANE, Wash. — Visit Spokane leaders are responding to concerns that the documentary ‘Curing Spokane’ could impact tourism.
"The way I took this video is they were kind of trying to speak internally on the way that Spokane can make some changes for the destination," said Visit Spokane CEO Meg Winchester.
Winchester said Visit Spokane was unaware of the documentary, "Curing Spokane," until its release last week.
Produced by Spokane developer, Larry Stone, the film tries to highlight key issues plaguing Spokane and offers four solutions Stone says would improve the city.
Homelessness and crime in Spokane were correlated with one another throughout the film, and that’s caused some concern from local nonprofits and advocacy groups.
Winchester hopes this does not scare off potential visitors because she believes the good in Spokane outweighs the bad.
"We're not going to not acknowledge that we have a homeless situation and a population experiencing homelessness. That is not anything we would ever do and not be compassionate about. But we are able to turn around and look at all the other good things and what the actuality is," Winchester said.
Winchester said Spokane is safe compared to other destinations. She said Visit Spokane provides local crime statistics to visitors who ask if Spokane is safe to visit. But she adds, anywhere you visit, you should always be aware of your surroundings.
"Any of us walking anywhere, especially when you're not familiar with the place, it's going to always be watching ourselves,” she said.
One of the four solutions suggested in the documentary is more police officers walking around downtown. Winchester said that's one point in the video she can agree with.
"You're always going to enjoy a place much better when you feel safe. I think just having some type of security force present and visible and--even if you don't see it--just knowing it's there always helps," she said.
Winchester believes the intentions behind Curing Spokane were meant to be good. But she hopes tourists who see it won't misinterpret it and reach out to Visit Spokane with any concerns.
Visit Spokane also released an official statement.
“Visit Spokane, its hospitality partners and local business leaders look for strong leadership from the Mayor's Office, Spokane City Council, and the Spokane Police Department to address current issues with compassion. If some or any of the solutions that the "Curing Spokane" video discussed are viable, we think that they should be considered because we all want a safe, clean, and welcoming city for residents and visitors.
We are, at least initially concerned, that the video will surface when visitors and meeting planners are considering Spokane as their next destination. The Spokane community may not realize what an impact the hospitality industry has on the local economy. 9.4 million people visited Spokane in 2018, and they spent $1.3 billion. What does that mean to people who live in Spokane County? It means $1,000 in tax relief per household. If a meeting planner comes to Spokane and doesn't feel safe, they'll likely take their business elsewhere.
Spokane is a beautiful city. The downtown core has come alive with expansion and renovation. Restaurants are bustling, public art is flourishing, and Spokane is a lovely place to visit. We cannot lose sight of that.
It has also seen tremendous growth and change over the last ten years, which have been incredible to watch, but with growth comes many challenges, and homelessness and crime are undoubtedly some of them. Visit Spokane is committed to working with the City of Spokane, downtown businesses and organizations to develop viable solutions to the social issues that downtown Spokane is currently experiencing.”