Seattle tourism slowly recovering

SEATTLE — Weeks before the start of the Seattle-based cruise ship season, tourism leaders said their business is rebounding slowly.

Visit Seattle reports the number of overnight stays increased 38% in 2021 from the previous year.

Hotel occupancy remains well below pre-pandemic highs, and the travel organization said the industry might not fully recover until early 2024.

Visit Seattle leaders said the recent cleanup of downtown sidewalks is helping, and tourists on Thursday told KIRO 7 they felt safe.

“I think the downtown is really clean, considering everything going on,” said Teri-Dawn Wells, visiting from Vancouver Island.

Mayor Bruce Harrell signed a new law doubling the per-night fee for each hotel room from two to four dollars.

The money is used to market Seattle as a vacation destination.

“There is a feeling right now. I’m going to call it a little bit of magic in the air,” Tom Norwalk of Visit Seattle said.

Norwalk said hotel occupancy percentages plummeted to single digits early in the pandemic and rebounded to about 40 percent in 2021.

Norwalk predicts about 60% of hotel rooms could be filled in 2022, still well below the 80% in 2019.

“All of the fundamentals that were in place in this city in 2019 are still there and ready to grow again,” Norwalk said.

This year’s Seattle-based Alaska cruise season begins April 11.

Nearly 300 sailings are scheduled, and this summer at least one ship will be in port every day of the week.