Mayor Harrell signs new legislation to improve Seattle tourism to attract more visitors and expand economic benefits to the region

STIA improvements will benefit the new Summit Seattle Convention Center, increase travel and tourism promotion.

Seattle – Mayor Bruce Harrell today signed the new Seattle Tourism Improvement Area (STIA) legislation into law following the Seattle City Council’s unanimous vote to approve the Mayor’s proposed amendment on September 19, 2023. The legislation establishes a new 15-year improvement area for business (BIA) ), which will increase travel and tourism promotion for the city and region and creates an updated fair assessment formula.

“Through the Seattle Tourism Enhancement Zone, we further strengthen Seattle’s ability to market and promote itself as a world-class city to visitors from around the world.” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “This summer, Seattle demonstrated our ability to host events of all sizes and welcome visitors from across the region, the country and the world. We know that tourism is a powerful economic driver benefiting small and local businesses throughout the city, and this improvement to STIA means an expanded opportunity to bring people to Seattle and make the most of the new Summit Seattle Convention Center. Together, we will continue to strive to make Seattle a safe, exciting and welcoming city for residents and visitors alike. I want to thank Council Member Sarah Nelson for her strong leadership that resulted in unanimous approval.

The STIA legislation is part of Mayor Harrell’s Downtown Activation Plan, which calls for a well-rounded approach to tourism, reflecting the city’s ongoing commitment to attracting visitors, residents, workers, families and more downtown. The new BIA will continue to advance our shared goal of making downtown a top destination for Seattleites and visitors year-round.

STIA currently consists of 71 hotels in downtown Seattle neighborhoods, including Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Belltown, Pioneer Square, SODO and parts of Capitol Hill, each with 60 rooms or more. These member hotels charge overnight guests 2.3% of the value of an occupied hotel room per night, generating millions in revenue that support STIA’s programs and services.

Per ordinance, the fees collected from the hotel overnight assessment go entirely into a special business and leisure travel marketing fund administered by Visit Seattle, the city’s official nonprofit tourism marketing organization.

“Conventions are hugely beneficial to downtown small businesses, which are still struggling with reduced traffic from office workers — and Seattle competes fiercely with other major cities for these business trips.” said Council Member Sarah Nelson, Chair of Economic Development, Technology and City Light. “STIA’s restructured assessment will generate additional revenue for Visit Seattle to promote all of Seattle as a premier business and leisure travel destination, and I sponsored this legislation because it makes sense to use some of that money just to promote the stunning new Summit Building on The convention center for domestic and international organizers of meetings and events.”

STIA’s funds are generated by guest nights at downtown hotels, but marketing efforts funded by assessment rates support the entire city – promoting the diverse offerings and experiences available in Seattle and the region. The campaigns encourage users to explore Seattle through its neighborhoods, natural attractions, arts and culture scene, culinary offerings and more.

STIA was created in 2011 to fill a void in recreational tourism marketing and promotion efforts that existed at the state and city level. 2022 tourism impact metrics for the region presented by the Visit Seattle Show:

  • 33.3 million visitors came to Seattle and King County, a 25% increase over 2021
  • $7.3 billion was spent in the city and county by visitors, a 35% increase over 2021.
  • $699 million in state and local taxes were paid by visitors, a 36.4% increase over 2021.
  • Tourism-related jobs continued to rebound in 2022 with more than 60,825 local jobs, a 5% increase in Seattle and King County

“We celebrate the reimagined STIA, which will allow Seattle to better invest in growing our tourism economy to a more competitive level with other major cities. The changes introduced in this legislation set us up for long-term success and help lift all of our neighborhoods and businesses year-round.” said Visit Seattle President and CEO Tammy Canavan.

The new BIA will take effect on January 1, 2024, strengthening promotional efforts for 2024 and beyond. A top priority for Visit Seattle and STIA is increasing leisure visitation from key domestic markets. Funding from the STIA assessment will allow Visit Seattle to reach a much larger audience. STIA also supports comprehensive public relations efforts, helping position the destination as a must-visit and expanding Visit Seattle’s global footprint by inviting travelers from around the world to visit the Emerald City. As the volume of visitors continues to grow, the economic impact of tourism can easily be found throughout the city.

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Council Member Andrew Lewis

“This legislation will boost our growing tourism economy and promote downtown’s cultural treasures, including our beloved Pike Place Market, which will soon open its world-class waterfront, and an unparalleled arts and culture district, which will soon be bolstered by a re- the open Cinerama. This new resource will help us tell Seattle’s story and attract visitors from around the world to enjoy the natural beauty, creativity and wonder that Seattle has to share.”

Markham McIntyre, Director of the Office of Economic Development

“We have an incredible economic asset in our newly expanded convention center and we need to make sure the world knows about it. This legislation will give Visit Seattle more opportunities to advertise our region and attract visitors from around the world to experience our great city. I’m excited to see how they can boost tourism as part of our downtown activation plan.”

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