Seattle tourism economy posted gains in 2016

Visitor counts and spending were robust in Seattle and King County. But can we avoid the ‘Trump Slump’ worrying the tourism industry?

Rainy winter notwithstanding, visitors to Seattle and King County increased by 2.2 percent last year compared with 2015. The 38.9 million tourists represent a record, according to research from Tourism Economics and Longwoods International. The data was presented at the annual meeting of the trade group Visit Seattle on Monday.

Other metrics were strong, as well:

  • Travel-related jobs totaled 74,054, up 1.5 percent and representing 5.6 percent of all employment in the county. They paid $2.2 billion in income.
  • Downtown hotel-room demand continued to outstrip supply. With occupancy of 82.7 percent, room rates rose 3.9 percent in 2016.
  • Overnight visitors grew 1.4 percent to 20 million.
  • Day visitors increased 3 percent to 18.9 million.
  • Together, they spent $7 billion in the city and county, up 3.8 percent compared with the previous year.
  • They also paid $718 million in state and local taxes, up 3.7 percent. The report said, “These tax revenues offset the average household tax burden in the city and county by $876.”
  • International visitors represented 7 percent of Seattle’s total visitor volume. But they accounted for 15 percent of total visitor spending because they stay longer and spend more than domestic tourists.

Tourism is a significant part of our diversified economy. Seattle is consistently ranked among the most-visited American cities (see, for example, here). Where that goes under the Trump administration, with its travel ban on some majority Muslim countries and general hostility to foreigners, is a big question.

“The proposed inbound U.S. travel bans and the so called ‘Trump Slump’ that many U.S. destinations are beginning to track remind us that national security and legitimate international travel are not mutually exclusive,” said Visit Seattle president Tom Norwalk.


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