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Seattle's Tourism Improves with Increases of 9.3% in Occupancy 9.2% in Spending,
but Global Events Threaten Rebound

By Carol Pucci, The Seattle TimesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

March 22, 2011--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 travel rebound they say is underway, following a slowdown during the recession.

The number of overnight visitors in Seattle and King County rose 6.1 percent to 9.3 million travelers 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 increase of 8.4 percent 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 last year. But officials said that was in line with broader economic trends indicating that jobs typically lag improvements in business following deep recessions.

Bright spots for 2011 include a forecast by the Port of Seattle projecting 195 cruise sailings and more than 403,500 passengers this year.

During the traditionally slow July Fourth week, Seattle will host its largest convention since 1991 when Lions Clubs International will bring between more than 15,000 attendees from 206 countries to Seattle.

"Today's tourism statistics confirm positive anecdotal reports that we've been hearing from many tourism businesses throughout the region," said Tom Norwalk, SCVB President & CEO in a statement issued Tuesday. "However, serious industry-wide 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 have scheduled a meeting for 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:


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