The pandemic took a toll on Seattle’s tourism industry. Crosscut analyzed how doubling a hotel fee could aide the industry's return and how an increase in tourism may impact the area's housing crisis. Read an excerpt from the June 2022 article below.
Downtown skyscrapers are relected on the hotel rooms at the citizenM Seattle South Lake Union hotel on Friday, June 24, 2022. Seattle doubled its per-night tourism fee on hotel rooms from $2 to $4. (Amanda Snyder/ Crosscut)
The pandemic cratered the tourism industry in Seattle. In the before-times, nearly 40 million tourists would visit the city and King County each year, almost 22 million of them staying overnight. It was an $8 billion industry and supported about 80,000 hotel and hospitality jobs in King County.
In 2020, there were only 10 million overnight visitors. Hotel occupancies dropped from 80% in 2019 to 26% in 2020.
Now, as summer 2022 finally gets underway in Seattle, tourists are walking the waterfront, cruise ships are arriving and hotel occupancy rates are climbing back up to 60%. To help aid that recovery and ensure more visitors come and stay in the city, the hospitality industry is turning to what may seem like a counterintuitive approach: a higher fee on hotel rooms.
The Seattle Tourism Improvement Area is an 11-year-old special assessment authority that requires 70 hotels in the greater downtown core to charge a per-room, per-night fee. When it was created in 2011, the STIA fee was set at $2 per-room, per-night. In March, the Seattle City Council voted to double it to $4. Visit Seattle, the city’s tourism promotion group, said the doubled rate will allow them to bolster their marketing efforts to aid the industry’s recovery and compete with better-funded markets like Portland.
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Seattle doubled its hotel fee. Here's where the money is going