Travel Matters: Visit Seattle Celebrates Impacts of Record-Breaking Visitor Season on Economy
May 7, 2019
Final report shows 40.9 million visitors spent more than $7.9 billion in 2018
SEATTLE – Coinciding with the start of cruise season, Visit Seattle kicked off National Travel & Tourism Week by releasing its full 2018 tourism report. For the ninth straight year, Seattle and King County saw record-breaking tourism growth. Travel and Tourism Week is celebrated nationwide May 5-11 by travel and tourism professionals.
In 2018, more than 40.9 million visitors spent $7.9 billion in the city and county, up by 2.5 percent and 5.8 percent respectively, according to the final report created in conjunction with Visit Seattle’s national research firms, Tourism Economics and Longwoods International. Of the 40.9 million visitors, 38 million came from other parts of the U.S. and the remaining 2.9 million were international travelers.
“Seattle and our region is an inspiring destination and it is an honor to share it with the millions of visitors that come here from all over the world each year,” Visit Seattle President & CEO Tom Norwalk said. “Nine years of record-breaking growth does not happen by chance – it happens because of the dedicated individuals who work across the tourism industry in nearly a dozen sectors on behalf of the city, county and state. Sharing the passion for this place is in the DNA of each person here – from restaurant servers to hoteliers, market vendors to business owners to the Seattleite who gives a recommendation to their favorite corner bistro. The people of Seattle make this city stand apart and continue to inspire all who visit.”
Highlights from the 2018 tourism report include:
- Locally, tourism sustained 78,400 jobs and produced $3.8 billion in direct income for employees in King County in 2018. That averages out to one in every 18 jobs in the county and reflects growth of 5.6 percent in the last year.
- Since 2010, jobs in the tourism industry have grown on average by 1,400 per year, up 23.5 percent. In this area, Seattle and King County continue to outpace the state and nation.
- Overnight visitors to Seattle and King County also continue to increase, growing 2.3 percent in 2018 to 21.3 million visitors. Though hotel supply grew by 5.9 percent in 2018 with the opening of several new hotels across the county, room revenue growth was robust at 6.6 percent and both demand and average room rates rose by more than 3 percent each.
- Of the $7.9 billion spent by visitors in the city and county during 2018, the largest areas of spending for visitors was lodging and food and beverage followed by retail and recreation. Total tourism-generated tax revenues were $1.1 billion in 2018, a 3.5 percent increase from 2017. Of that, visitors contributed $806 million in state and local taxes in 2018, an increase of 5.7 percent. Visitor spending and tax generation helps to offset the average household tax burden by $947 per household each year.
- When indirect and induced impacts of this spending are calculated, tourism in Seattle generated an estimated $11.3 billion total economic impact.
Trends in Seattle travel include the following:
- International markets hold one of the destination’s most exciting growth opportunities. International visitors account for 7.1 percent of Seattle’s total visitor volume but represent 16 percent of total visitor spending, as they stay longer and spend more than domestic travelers.
- Sea-Tac International Airport is ranked eighth in the U.S. for passenger volume. More than 49 million travelers came through Sea-Tac last year. Of those, 12.2 percent of arrivals are from international points of origin.
- In 2018, Air France, Thomas Cook and Aer Lingus all added non-stop service to Seattle.
- Combined new hotel development throughout the city and county saw an increase of 14 new hotels, increasing inventory by 3,325 rooms in 2018.
- Visit Seattle and the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) celebrate banner year for meetings and conventions.
- Throughout 2018, 50 national conventions were hosted at the WSCC, totaling over 333,000 rooms which made it the most successful year ever. The volume and quality of groups (meetings and conventions) traveling to Seattle had the strongest economic impact by the hospitality industry for the region in 20 years. This business brought $708 million in economic impact to the city, an increase of 16% from 2017 which had an economic impact of $608 million.
- 2018 was also a record year in future business booked for Seattle. Business booked through 2027 is expected to have an economic impact of $715 million with more than 704,000 total room nights booked.
- Because of the demand of meetings in Seattle, the WSCC broke ground on the Summit building in August 2018. The Summit is just a block and a half from Arch and will nearly double the center’s footprint. Sales are active for Summit and the project is slated for completion in 2022.
- In 2018, Visit Seattle expanded its video-based content approach on VISITSEATTLE.tv and achieved over 65,000,000 minutes of watch time and over 36,000,000 video views.
Additionally, Visit Seattle engaged with a combined audience of 630,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram resulting in 70 million impressions in 2018.
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. More than 40 million annual visitors spend $7.9 billion in the city and county each year. The economic power of travel and tourism generates more than 78,000 Seattle area jobs and contributes $806 million in annual state and local tax revenue. Visit visitseattle.org.