SEATTLE – Visit Seattle, the official destination marketing organization for Seattle showcased the latest travel and tourism trends and released preliminary 2021 tourism impact metrics at today’s Annual Outlook Meeting at the Westin Seattle. Visit Seattle highlighted how the tourism industry is primed and ready for recovery. The meeting shined a spotlight on the destination’s growing infrastructure and also the increasing demand the city is seeing from key travel segments, including leisure, business travel, and meetings and conventions.
In a year focused on recovery efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle and King County saw an increase in visitor volume, expenditures, tax contributions and travel-related employment for Seattle and King County in 2021.
Preliminary estimates indicate that a total of 27.5 million visitors came to the city and county in 2021, a 25% increase from the previous year, according to the Visit Seattle report, which was created in conjunction with its national research firm, Tourism Economics. Overnight visitors increased 37.8% to 14.7 million.
Those visitors spent $5.6 billion in the city and county in 2021 – an impressive increase of 43.8% from the challenging previous year. Visitors paid $550.5 million in state and local taxes in 2021, an increase of 50.7% from the previous year.
Tourism related jobs also continued to recover in the city and county in 2021; there were 58,085 travel related jobs (up by 19.3%) in Seattle and King County. Final data from the study will be released in April.
Visit Seattle welcomed more than 575 tourism and business professionals to the annual event, which returned to an in-person gathering this year. The program included guest speakers Mayor Bruce Harrell, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Destinations International President and CEO Don Welsh and keynote speaker, MMGY Global CEO Clayton Reid. The hospitality industry also recognized and celebrated Tom Norwalk, Visit Seattle’s President & CEO, for his accomplished 45-year hospitality career. Norwalk retires from the organization today.
“While tourism’s recovery to pre-pandemic levels will be years in the making, we are encouraged to see considerable progress made in 2021,” Visit Seattle President and CEO Tom Norwalk said. “After two challenging years, we are very optimistic about our destination’s outlook in 2022. Our future is incredibly bright and I will always be cheering this region on.”
“Travel recovery is underway around the world as both leisure and business travelers again find the need to connect physically and emotionally,” travel expert and keynote speaker Clayton Reid, CEO, MMGY Global said. “And while some of our great American cities like Seattle have trailed the recovery, the investments being made in transportation, entertainment and infrastructure are now going to unlock substantial growth. Seattle is perfectly positioned to see a return on its community investments to support visitors.”
In a collaborative effort between the Seattle City Council, the Mayor’s office, and Visit Seattle, the Seattle Tourism Improvement Area (STIA) assessment was voted on and approved by the council to increase from $2 per occupied room per night to $4 per occupied room night, effective later this spring. Mayor Harrell signed the legislation into law at the Outlook Meeting. Council member Sara Nelson was also in attendance. The increased assessment will allow Visit Seattle to more competitively promote leisure travel, particularly during this critical recovery phase. “Today, I’m proud to sign this STIA legislation into law to further strengthen Seattle’s ability to market and promote itself as a world-class city to visitors from all over the world,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Tourism is a powerful economic driver in our region, benefitting small and local businesses of all kinds across the city. Together, we will continue striving to make Seattle a safe, exciting, and thriving city for residents and visitors alike.”
While STIA’s funds are generated by downtown hotels, the marketing efforts supported by STIA celebrate Seattle’s diverse offerings and experiences across the city and region. STIA supported campaigns and events like I Know a Place, Seattle Museum Month, Refract Seattle, and VISITSEATTLE.tv help illustrate how consumers are inspired to explore Seattle through its neighborhoods, natural landmarks, arts and culture scene, culinary offerings, and so much more. Increased funding through STIA and the increased assessment stand to benefit our small business partners of all kinds that have been hit hardest throughout the pandemic.
About Visit Seattle:
Visit Seattle has served as the official destination marketing organization (DMO) for Seattle and King County for more than 50 years. A 501(c)(6) organization, Visit Seattle enhances the economic prosperity of the region through global destination branding along with competitive programs and campaigns in leisure travel marketing, convention sales and overseas tourism development. Visit visitseattle.org.
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