Lagging local tourism industry planning for growth

Like many industries, tourism in Washington state took a hit during the pandemic. Although life has largely returned to normal, with many industries already having recovered from the pandemic years, the state’s tourism industry is still lagging.

A recent report from State of Washington Tourism indicates that visitor volume, expenditures, tax receipts and employment in the sector all increased in 2022, but were undercut by inflation and lackluster employment growth. While these increases are a positive sign that the industry is recovering, Washington is not keeping pace with other Western states when it comes to tourism.

Last year, visitor expenditures in the state increased 24% to $22.1 billion. While that is technically higher than 2019 levels, the national Consumer Price Index rose 14.5% between 2019 and 2022, bringing the actual total visitor spending to only 86.3% of 2019 levels.

In total, 97.6% of visitors to Washington are domestic, with only 2.4% coming from international tourists. Although Washington has fallen behind other states in the region, there is massive opportunity for growth in its tourism sector—especially from international tourists.

State tourism as an employment sector has been recovering, with over 220,000 jobs coming from the tourism industry in 2022. That’s a 10.5% uptick over 2021, although it’s still 7.7% below 2019 levels.

As the state explores areas of potential growth in the tourism industry, so too do the Eastside and Seattle. Bellevue City Council is currently investigating a potential Tourism Promotion Area (TPA)  in Bellevue and Redmond. To generate funding and increase future visits to the area, the TPA will collect fees from overnight visitors in Bellevue and Redmond, with an estimated revenue of $3.5 million in the first year. And in Seattle, the city plans for increased convention traffic in the years ahead, especially given increased capacity from the large new addition to the Convention Center.

Washington is a dynamic and beautiful place that attracts visitors for a reason. While tourism may be down at the moment, it seems likely the state – and the Seattle area in particular – will catch up to its Western counterparts soon with a little planning and patience.

Information for this article was sourced from 425Business.

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