Seattle's tourism improves, but global events threaten rebound
Tourism leaders in Seattle and around Washington state are concerned that global events and the impending closure of the state tourism office could thwart a post-recession travel rebound they say is under way.
Seattle Times travel writer
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Tourism leaders in Seattle and around the state are concerned that global events and the impending closure of the state tourism office could thwart a travel rebound they say is under way, after a slowdown during the recession.
The number of overnight visitors in Seattle and King County rose 6.1 percent to 9.3 million in 2010 from the previous year, according to a report released Tuesday by Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau. Travelers spent $5.5 billion, up 9.2 percent, generating $440 million in state and local taxes, an 8.4 percent jump from 2009.
Seattle hotel occupancy rose 9.3 percent in 2010. The increases didn't translate into more jobs, however; travel-generated employment fell 1.1 percent in King County.
But officials said that was in line with broader economic trends indicating jobs typically lag improvements in business after deep recessions.
Brighter spots for 2011 include a Port of Seattle forecast for 195 cruise sailings and more than 403,500 passengers this year, though the number is down from 2010's record-setting year.
During the traditionally slow July Fourth week, Seattle will host its largest convention since 1991 when Lions Clubs International will bring more than 15,000 attendees here from 206 countries.
"Today's tourism statistics confirm positive anecdotal reports that we've been hearing from many tourism businesses throughout the region," Tom Norwalk, convention and visitors bureau president, said in a statement Tuesday. "However, serious industrywide challenges remain, and we've learned that our industry is fragile and vulnerable to economic, political and environmental events."
Norwalk said tourism officials were concerned about how the earthquake in Japan would affect travel from Asia.
Members of a new statewide tourism alliance are to meet March 31 to talk about how to sustain funding for tourism promotion since budget cuts threaten closure of the Washington State Tourism Office.
Carol Pucci: email@example.com