Seattle Culture

Seattle: Again The Place To Be

Seattle nears pre-pandemic visitor levels in impressive turnaround

By Sarah Stackhouse March 27, 2024

A bustling waterfront with a restaurant terrace overlooking a marina against a backdrop of Seattle's modern city skyline, enhancing tourism.

Tourists are slowly returning to King County.

Visit Seattle released preliminary figures for 2023 at its annual meeting Wednesday, and found that the region hosted 37.8 million visitors last year, an 8.9% increase from 2022. That’s just 10% less than in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic.

“We expect that 2024 will be the year where we see overall volumes return to or exceed 2019 levels,” says Visit Seattle President and CEO Tammy Canavan, noting that tourists now seek more meaningful, experience-based travel post-pandemic. “It’s no longer a transactional thing. More travelers want to immerse in local culture, connect with community, leave a place better than they found it.”

Those tourists spent $8.2 billion last year, a 12.8% hike from 2022.

Hotel occupancy reached 68.6% last year, a 5.8% increase from 2022, with revenue rising 15% to $898.1 million. Occupancy is now at 85.8% of pre-pandemic levels. Corporate and international travel, however, isn’t as robust because of a lack of daily flights from key markets and visitor visa wait times. 

“From the corporate perspective things are a little more complicated for Seattle than perhaps other places due to our deep relationship with the tech world,” Canavan says, “And that sector is still figuring out what its new normal is.”

Visit Seattle is gearing up for several new campaigns designed to draw tourists in this new age of destination marketing, centered around the nonprofit’s ongoing narrative of inclusivity, innovation, creativity, adventure, and stewardship. They include a focus on banned books by Seattle authors, celebrating the city’s UNESCO City of Literature status, and spotlighting attractions like the new waterfront. She notes that FiFA World Cup 2026 (Seattle is a host city) is another opportunity to showcase the city to the world.

Visit Seattle is a 501(c) organization that has promoted Seattle and King County for 50 years through travel marketing, convention sales, and overseas tourism development.

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