Region’s tourism economy still mixed, on the upswing

Horizons are brightening for Seattle’s hospitality and event industry. As the pandemic led to a sharp decline in travel, corporate events and hotel occupancy rates, Seattle’s tourism industry took a hit. However, the latest numbers out of Kidder Matthews, Visit Seattle and the CoStar Group point toward a slow-but-steady increase in business and leisure travel to the Emerald City. 

In Kidder Matthews’ recently released Q1 2024 Seattle Hotel CRE Market Update, overall hotel market occupancy was 67.6% in Q1 of this year. That’s a steady climb from the low of 32.6% in February 2021, 53.1% in Q1 2022 and 66.8% in Q4 2023. The occupancy rate still hasn’t climbed back to where it was immediately pre-pandemic, when it stood at 73.5% in Q1 2020.

The average daily room rate of Seattle hotels has increased consistently, rising to $177 in the first quarter of 2024, surpassing the rate of $160 seen in Q1 2020 just before the pandemic.

Despite the Seattle hotel market’s recent years of lower occupancy rates, there are four new hotel developments currently under construction downtown, which are expected to add 620 rooms to the market by summer 2025, according to the CoStar Group.

While the hotel comeback is positive, business travel has been slower to rebound. According to Tourism Economics data released by Visit Seattle in March, the number of Seattle area visitors in 2023 was 37.8 million, down 10% compared to 2019, when the city welcomed 41.9 million visitors.

The missing contingent is largely corporate travelers, who are likely spending more time in virtual meetings and less time packing their bags for work trips. 

The recent Seattle Convention Center (SCC) Summit expansion project may drive those numbers up. The SCC already has 55 events on the calendar for 2025, which are expected to welcome more than a quarter-million attendees – a 23% jump from 2019.

The recent Seattle Convention Center (SCC) Summit expansion project may drive those numbers back up. SCC’s CEO Jeff Blosser is confident that the Summit addition will ultimately bring a steady flow of event business to the city. Add to this continued cruise ship visitor growth and the fact that Seattle is a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and we can be cautiously optimistic about increased business and leisure travel in the near future. 

This post was based on information found on Puget Sound Business Journal and 425 Business. 

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