Washington State

Latest Tourism Statistics Point to Industry’s Potential to Drive Additional Revenue for Washington State

Annual State Tourism Impacts Released as National Tourism Week Begins

SEATTLE – Figures released today by State of Washington Tourism (SWT) indicate continued recovery in Washington State’s visitor volume, expenditures, tax receipts and employment in 2022, though financial gains are undermined by inflation, have not kept pace with other states and employment growth continues to fall short of pre-pandemic benchmarks.

     The annual Economic Impacts of Visitors in Washington State, compiled by national travel research firm Tourism Economics for SWT, was released today in advance of National Travel and Tourism Week, May 7-13.

     According to the report, rising prices boosted average spending per visitor 16% to $216 per visitor to Washington. Overall, visitor expenditures increased 24% to $22.1 billion in 2022, 101.0% of 2019 levels nominally. However, due to the 14.5% rise in the national Consumer Price Index between 2019 and 2022, in real terms total visitor spending in 2022 amounted to just 86.3% of 2019 levels.

     Last year the state’s visitor volume increased 7.3% to 102.2 million, still just 93% of 2019 levels. Visitation is largely dominated by domestic visitors (97.6% market share) while international visitation – representing strong growth potential for destinations with international air service – lags (2.4% of all visitors).

     Direct state and local tax revenue increased 19.6% from 2021 to $3.1 billion, down 1.4% relative to 2019. The total state and local taxes paid by visitors to Washington offset the average state household tax burden by $1,049 per year.

     Comparatively, Washington’s recovery in visitor spending and tax generation rank among the five worst performing states in the nation, year-to-date through March 2023, according to Tourism Economics preliminary figures. Nationally, growth in visitor expenditures averages 4.3% compared to Washington’s -3%, and growth in visitor-generated tax revenue averages 3.8% nationally compared to Washington’s -2.8%. All competing western states have growth in both areas, some logging double-digit growth.

     “Given strong national travel demand and the example of proportionately higher tourism sector recovery in neighboring western states, Washington’s tourism industry has the potential to significantly grow economic impact through concerted and sustained marketing and development programs,” said Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics.

     “While we are pleased to see incremental pandemic recovery, we know its pace is uneven across state geographies, business segments and tourism markets,” said David Blandford, SWT CEO. “Increased investment in the state tourism program will drive needed returns in Washington’s visitor spending, tax revenue and job growth and allow us to optimize growth potential in key markets such as international visitation.”

     In 2022, tourism supported 221,394 direct and induced jobs, a 10.5% increase over the previous year but still 7.7% below 2019 levels. Direct jobs numbered 145,305 (down 11.3% from 2019), with 53,232 in the food and beverage sector, followed by 26,229 jobs in recreation and entertainment, 28,450 jobs in lodging and 19,824 jobs in retail trade. Jobs supported directly by tourism numbered 145,305 in Washington. Prior to the pandemic, the leisure/hospitality segment led job growth in the state before its precipitous 40% decline in 2020. 

     Economic Impacts of Visitors in Washington State compiles survey data from Longwoods International; Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics by industry; STR lodging performance data; tax collections including lodging tax receipts; U.S. Census business sales by industry and seasonal second homes; and international travel data for overseas, Canadian and Mexican travel to the U.S. based on aviation, survey and credit card information.

About State of Washington Tourism

State of Washington Tourism (SWT) is a 501(c)(6) organization established by industry stakeholders with the sole mission of developing and sustaining Washington State destination tourism marketing. SWT procures and administers funds for marketing efforts and creates and implements a strategic statewide marketing plan. For more information, visit www.stateofWAtourism.com.

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