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Seattle Celebrates Record-Breaking Tourism Season with More Than 40 Million Visitors in 2018

Seattle Celebrates Record-Breaking Tourism Season with More Than 40 Million Visitors in 2018

Seattle and King Country saw record visitor volume, expenditures, tax contributions and travel-related employment for Seattle and King County in 2018 for the ninth year in a row. The results were released at Visit Seattle’s 2019 Annual Meeting at Benaroya Hall on March 4.

Visit Seattle President and CEO Tom Norwalk and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan welcomed more than 700 tourism and business professionals to the annual event. Guest speakers included NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke, Sheraton Grand Seattle General Manager Keri Robinson, MMGY Global CEO Clayton Reid, and Alaska Air Group Chairman and CEO Brad Tilden. The meeting also included a musical performance by Seattle Singer-Songwriter Mary Lambert.

Preliminary 2018 estimates for topline metrics indicate that a total of 40.9 million visitors came to the city and county in 2018, up 2.5 percent from the previous year, according to the Visit Seattle report, which was created in conjunction with its national research firms, Tourism Economics and Longwoods International. Overnight visitors increased 2.3 percent to 21.3 million.


Those visitors spent $7.8 billion in the city and county in 2018 – an impressive increase of 5.8 percent from the previous year. Visitors paid $806 million in state and local taxes in 2018, an increase of 5.7 percent from the previous year.

Tourism related jobs also grew in the city and county in 2018, there were 78,400 travel related jobs (up by 3.1 percent) in Seattle and King County. Final data from the study will be released in early May.

“We are so encouraged by these strong 2018 statistics showing significant growth in Seattle and King County tourism,” Visit Seattle President and CEO Tom Norwalk said. “Visit Seattle and our partners have worked very hard to create travel inspiration for our destination and of course, we love sharing our compelling Emerald City story around the world. Our city is poised for continued growth and for re-discovery by many visitors who may not have traveled here lately to experience the exciting changes taking place.”

Some top accomplishments in 2018 from the travel and hospitality industry include:

In 2018, there were seven new hotels opened throughout downtown. That comes out to an additional 2,248 hotel rooms, increasing inventory by 19% downtown. This was the highest increase in supply since the Sheraton opened in 1982.
The month of December is traditionally a true need period for the city (the month with the lowest hotel occupancy and lowest business travel). Meetings and conventions can have a significant impact on occupancy each December and in 2018 this was especially true with the most rooms rented in that month in nearly 20 years with over 13,000 contracted rooms. Linux Foundation’s KubeCon was a tremendous success and filled the Washington State Convention Center and many hotels during the second week of the month.

Because of the demand of meetings in Seattle, the Washington State Convention Center broke ground on the Summit building in August 2018, whereby we began actively selling two convention center buildings downtown. No other convention destination that we are aware of has this scenario.

2018 was a record-breaking year in the volume and quality of groups (meetings and conventions) traveling to Seattle, and the strongest economic impact by the hospitality industry for the region in 20 years. Throughout 2018, 50 national conventions were hosted at the Washington State Convention Center, totaling over 333,000 rooms which made it the most successful year ever.

When looking at total business booked by Visit Seattle in the city, the economic impact in 2018 was $708 million, an increase of 16%, up from 2017 which had an economic impact of $608 million.

2018 was 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.

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