Haze and smoke cause Seattle-area businesses to lose out on major tourist dollars

The smoke and haze is taking a toll on Seattle – and not just people’s health, but also on tourism dollars and businesses.

One example – Agua Verde Paddle Club had to close because of the haze during some of its busiest days of the year and said it’s losing $10,000 per day being closed.

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The business said the busy summer months are what makes it able to afford being located on the water the rest of the year -- and being shut during the days of haze means it might not turn a profit this year.

Many tourists who in the area – including some who tried to kayak through Paddle Club -- have had to adjust their plans while in the Seattle area.

With all the haze and smoke continuing to choke the area it hasn't exactly been a typical Pacific Northwest experience.

“Greetings from Beijing,” said Sam Henager, a tourist in Seattle from Baltimore.

And the smoke is leaving tourists disappointed. KIRO7’s Deedee Sun caught up with visitors at Kerry Park in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, which boasts beautiful, sweeping views of the city’s skyline and Mount Rainier on a clear day.

“You can't really see much, I was really hoping to see Mount Rainier here,” said Abe Tsvik, here visiting from New York City.

Only the outline of a smoky Seattle was visible.

“The Sky View Observatory, we wanted to go up but I think we won’t because of the smoky air,” said Raffaella, a tourist from Italy. “And not the Space Needle definitely,” she said.

Visit Seattle said the number of tourists visiting hasn't changed this year, but they might be choosing to do different things.

“People are being a little flexible and they’re doing not as much outside and spending more time inside,” said Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of Visit Seattle.

It means outdoor attractions, are the hardest hit.

Argosy Cruises canceled all its tours on Wednesday, and unbooked 300 guests for the Tillicum Village experience.

“Between the heat and smoke and the ever rising pollution,” said Kevin Clark, president and CEO of Argosy Cruises in a statement that Visit Seattle sent to KIRO7, “We shut it all down over concern for the health and safety of both our internal and external guest(s),” Clark said.

Clark said giving the narrated tours was also a challenge and guides were talking through a mask filter, and forced to give descriptions such as, “Well, if there wasn’t smoke you would see Queen Anne and the Space Needle.

Imagine if you will, the Olympic Mountains covered with the last of the winter snow."
Another disappointment for tourists?

“We went to Mount Rainier (National Park) and I couldn't actually see the mountain, but I’m sure it's beautiful,” said Carley Heck, a tourist from Baltimore.

The supervisor at Mount Rainier National Park said usually during this time of the year, the Paradise visitor’s parking lot is full by 9 a.m. But with the haze, it says a quarter empty.

Kenmore Air’s seaplanes have been grounded every day since Monday.

The bulk of its summer business comes from tourist flights and the family-run company said the haze means a big hit.

Visit Seattle said with year-over-year growth in visitor numbers, the tourism industry hasn’t taken an overall hit this year because of the haze, but it’s worried there could be an impact in the future if hazy skies become the norm.

“For those that now look at the summer months in Seattle, if they think there could be the impact of fires and smoke, they may think twice about what they want to do, where they might want to spend that time, that disposable income for travel,” Norwalk said.

“We’ve got to think longer term and know that this could be a problem we have again this year, and in years to come,” Norwalk said.

The Paddle Club hopes to open back up on Thursday, when the haze is forecast to clear out of western Washington.