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Seattle Receives $8 Million from Cares Funding for Emergency Tourism Recovery

Seattle Receives $8 Million for tourism recovery
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The King County Council unanimously approved the awarding of $8 million from CARES funding in support of county-wide tourism recovery promotion.

In partnership with Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority, Visit Seattle will implement a marketing campaign to drive more business and foot traffic to King County through the end of 2020, ultimately generating more overnight visitors to the region. The campaign, which launches in early October, is being created by Visit Seattle’s new marketing agency, Wunderman Thompson.

“We are very grateful to King County Councilmembers Kohl-Welles and Dembowski, along with King County Executive Dow Constantine, who have been championing this initiative since March,” said Tom Norwalk, Visit Seattle President & CEO.

“Their understanding of the power of travel and tourism to this region, along with the many benefits it provides to our community and residents, have been crucial. We are celebrating this incredible step forward, while acknowledging that this is just the beginning of what will be an extensive recovery process for the tourism and hospitality industries in King County.”

The marketing campaign will be centered around an invitation to safely return to King County, focused especially on visitors who live within a “reasonable drive.” This is consistent with health and safety recommendations from the Washington State Department of Health, as well as research indicating that a majority of U.S. residents are currently choosing to travel within 100-200 miles of their homes.

Additionally, Visit Seattle recently launched the "All Clear King County" Safety Pledge – an initiative to encourage strict safety protocols and a means to promote those businesses implementing them. Visit Seattle is also asking that visitors to King County make a similar commitment by respecting safety measures in place – mask wearing, physical distancing, handwashing, etc.

“At Visit Seattle, we are tirelessly preparing to actively invite visitors back to our incredible region as we reopen responsibly,” said Ali Daniels, Visit Seattle Senior Vice President & CMO. “In the meantime, we will continue to respect the guidelines Governor Inslee has instituted and focus on those within a reasonable driving distance of our beautiful destination.”

While the full economic impact of COVID-19 to Seattle and King County is not yet available, the below data points provide confirmation of the devastating impact the pandemic has had on tourism and hospitality in this region.

  • In 2019, the tourism industry generated $11.7 billion in total economic impact, along with 80,317 jobs. Visitors also paid $837.5 million in state and local taxes, which offset the annual household tax burden for local residents by $965.
  • While regional hotel occupancies have shown consistent growth in recent weeks, occupancy is down significantly in comparison to prior years. For the week of August 23-29, the Seattle metro market ran 37.3% occupancy for the week (compared to 83.9% last year), with an average rate of $95 (compared to $194 last year).  
  • The 2019 cruise season in Seattle generated $893.6 million and provided more than 5,500 local jobs. The 2020 season was cancelled entirely.
  • According to Tourism Economics, despite only accounting for 11% of employment in the U.S., the Leisure & Hospitality sector is contributing more than 40% of the country’s excess unemployment with nearly 16.9 million jobs lost.
  • In total, 45 future citywide conventions previously booked at the Washington State Convention Center have cancelled, resulting in a loss of $333.1 million in economic impact.

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