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Seattle tourism gets bad marks, but there’s always Tukwila

Tourists gave Seattle bad marks for traffic and how expensive it is to visit town. (MyNorthwest file photo)
LISTEN: Visit Seattle responds to bad tourism marks from visitors

Seattle tourism may not look too good after bad marks from visitors. But a local tourism expert argues that it’s far from the entire story.

“If it’s a question of price, traffic and all the things that drive us crazy as residents, it’s totally not what we hear and see in terms of results of how busy and how vibrant the tourism industry is in Seattle,” said Tom Norwalk with Visit Seattle on KIRO Radio’s Tom and Curley Show.

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Still, The Seattle Times reports that results from a J.D. Power survey do not reflect well on the Emerald City. After asking more than 100 questions of 26,000 visitors to the top 50 tourist markets in the United States, Seattle ranked near the bottom — 37th. We were beat out by the pleasant offerings of cities like Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio. Vegas topped the results.

“We are not a Vegas, or Orlando, and certainly not Columbus,” Norwalk said. “We are a very unique, and authentic, and somewhat gritty port city. So I think we are hearing a different kind of response from people who come here.”

The more than 600 visitors to Seattle cited some common complaints. Highest on that list is how expensive it is to visit Seattle. They also were not fond of how bad traffic is around town — tourists were fond of local mass transit, however. And it seems the Seattle freeze gave some visitors frost bite, who noted how unfriendly staff at restaurants and bars were to them. Well, try living here.

“Maybe we are a little grumpy because of traffic, or the weather, but we’ve never heard comments about friendliness or lack of service,” Norwalk said.

The Times points out that, at least, Seattle beat Portland on the survey. Portland landed at 43rd on the list. The two Northwest cities vie for a lot of the same tourism dollars.

“We compete for conventions and meetings, and we share a lot of business internationally and certainly a lot of leisure visitors all around,” Norwalk said. “So we always love to see Portland below us.”

South of Seattle tourism

While Seattle tourism may be nursing its wounds after the survey, cities south of its border recently received news worth boasting. Cities like Tukwila, SeaTac and Des Moines. That’s right, while people don’t like driving around Seattle with its sky-high prices and unfriendly staff, they love the ambiance of Tukwila. After multiple headlines, Tukwila gained a reputation as the most dangerous city in America.

According to Seattle Southside, the three cities experienced yet another year of increased travel spending in 2016. It was a 4 percent rise from the previous year. Tourists spent $693 million in 2016, making it the sixth year in a row of economic growth for the tourism industry south of Seattle.

That area has an unfair advantage, however. A lot of that growth is likely due to the fact that the three southside cities border Sea-Tac Airport, which experienced record shattering numbers in recent months. Holiday travel alone was double than the previous year. Sea-Tac Airport rose from the 13th to the 9th busiest airport in the nation in 2016. And all those travelers need a place to stay while heading to, or coming from, the airport. Most of the lodging dollars in that area were spent in SeaTac, according to the study by Seattle Southside.

So while visitors may have a few complaints, they aren’t stopping them from visiting Seattle, or Tukwila.

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