New Research Reveals Record Tourism Growth in Seattle

News Release
May 6, 2015

David Blandford
(206) 461-5806,

New Research Reveals Record Tourism Growth in Seattle

2014 Tourism Report Card Includes Highest-Ever Visitor Volume, Expenditures, Tax Contributions and Employment

SEATTLE –This week, the regional tourism industry celebrates National Travel & Tourism Week with the announcement of record Seattle-King County visitations, visitor spending, tax contributions and employment.

The 2014 year-end statistics, provided to Visit Seattle by the national research firm Tourism Economics, indicate that overnight visitor volumes in the city and county increased 3.7 percent in 2014 to 19.2 million – an all-time record. This compares to 3 percent growth in overnight visitations for the U.S. as a whole.

Seattle’s 2014 visitors spent $6.4 billion in the city and county, an impressive increase of 6.4 percent. When indirect and induced impacts of this direct spending are calculated, tourism in Seattle generated an estimated $9.2 billion total economic impact. Spending was up from 2013 in all domestic and international categories measured – lodging, food and beverage, retail, recreation, transportation (local) and air transport.

In 2014, travelers paid $643 million in state and local taxes (up 7.6 percent), and a total of $943 million including federal tax revenues.

Jobs supported by travel spending also increased in 2014. There were 70,640 travel related jobs (up 4.4 percent) in King County. These jobs represent 5.7 percent (1 in 18) of all jobs in the county. Direct jobs paid $2 billion in total income. When indirect and induced impacts were included, tourism generated $3.2 billion in labor income.

“With a 6.4 percent increase in visitor spending and a 4.4 percent increase in tourism-supported employment last year, the visitor economy is leading growth in Seattle,” said Adam Sacks, President of Tourism Economics. “This vital segment of the economy is proving itself as a driver of gains in the labor market, business activity and tax generation.”

Some other trends in Seattle travel and tourism include the following:

  • International markets hold one of the destination’s most exciting growth opportunities. Sea-Tac International Airport’s international traffic grew 16 percent in 2014, according to the Port of Seattle. International visitor spending in 2014 grew 4 percent, according to Visit Seattle’s research; international visitors represent 8.2 percent of Seattle’s total visitor volume but account for 18 percent of total visitor spending.
  • Seattle’s hotel market tightened as strong demand continued to outpace supply in 2014; occupancy rates increased 3 percent and average room rates rose nearly 10 percent over 2013.
  • In 2014, Visit Seattle booked more than $620 million in total convention economic impact for all future years. However, during the past five years, Seattle has been forced to turn away more than 300 conventions representing nearly $1.6 billion in future business due to date availability at the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC). The WSCC ranks 56th in size nationally. Planned future development of a nearby additional facility in conjunction with nearby private hotel development would ease the ability for meeting planners to assemble large city-wide hotel room blocks.

“Seattle’s tourism economy continues to demonstrate robust growth in nearly every sector of business,” said Tom Norwalk, Visit Seattle President & CEO. “However, as a destination we must work to ensure that we have adequate infrastructure to accommodate growth potential. That includes an additional downtown convention facility and more hotel guest rooms to support increased meeting attendees, and a solid funding plan to expand and improve Sea-Tac’s International Arrival Facility.”

About Visit Seattle:

Visit Seattle, a private, nonprofit marketing organization, has served as Seattle/King County’s official destination marketing organization (DMO) for more than 50 years. The goal of these marketing efforts is to enhance the employment opportunities and economic prosperity of the region.

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