Washington State Travel Impacts & Visitor Volume, 2000-2017
Preliminary Report by Dean Runyan Associates, April 2018
The Washington State economy continued to see robust growth in 2017, which stimulated in-state consumer confidence and many industries in the state. As Washington residents currently comprise two thirds of all trips to destinations within the state, tourism visitations, expenditures and visitor-generated tax revenues grew. However, the pace of overall tourism growth has slowed.
Overall visitation in Washington increased 3.6 percent, compared to 3.8 percent growth the previous year, to 40.1 overnight person trips, as in-state residents help to sustain visits.
Travel spending increased 7.0 percent in $21.4 billion in current dollars, 5.8 percent in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars in 2017, buoyed by robust hotel occupancies (+3.0 percent) and motor fuel prices (+15 percent), in-state consumer confidence and other factors. Strong hotel occupancies in the state’s urban centers were driving factors in this growth, as they maintain the majority of the state’s accommodations inventory (i.e. King County comprises 53 percent). Seattle saw record hotel occupancy of 84.2 percent in 2017.
Visitor-generated Tax Receipts
State and local visitor-generated tax receipts increased 4.8 percent to $1.8 billion in 2017.
Travel generated employment
Jobs supported by tourism increased 2.8 percent to 177,000 in 2017.
While Sea-Tac International Airport reported record passenger volumes and 5.4 percent growth in international passengers in 2017, spending by foreign visitors in Washington decreased slightly (2 percent) due the strength of the U.S. dollar. Overseas inbound tourism to the U.S. has seen percentage declines since 2015 and the nation is beginning to see market share decline due to the strong U.S. dollar, national political rhetoric and questions about immigration and travel policy changes.
Business and Competitive Landscape in 2018
Competing western states continue to invest significantly in tourism as a driver of jobs, economic impact and relief for communities that incur natural disasters and other crises.