Washington State Travel Improved in 2011

The Washington State travel industry continued to show modest improvement in 2011, following the steep decline in travel in 2009 in the state and the U.S. That’s according to a new report released this week for the Washington Tourism Alliance produced by Dean Runyan Associates of Portland, OR.

As reported, most indicators of travel to Washington destinations are up, yet the travel industry is still not performing at the level prior to the recession. In general, the performance of the Washington State travel industry reflects that of the larger U.S. Below are key industry indicators from the report.

Spending: Travel spending increased by 5.0 percent in Washington State from 2010 to 2011p following a 6.2 percent increase during the preceding 2009-10 period. However, most of the spending increase was due to price increases for rooms and transportation. The travel spending estimates for the larger U.S. are comparable.

Employment: On a more positive note, there is some indication that travel industry businesses are beginning to hire new workers for the first time since 2008. Overall, travel generated employment increased by 2.1 percent. Employment gains typically lag business revenue after deep recessions such as the one from which we are now recovering. Following a sharp reduction in employment during 2009, employers generally increased the number of hours worked of existing employees and improved their balance sheets in 2010. They are now hiring new employees.

Tax Receipts: Total local and state tax receipts generated by travel spending increased by 4.5 percent from 2010 to 2011, the same rate of increase as in the preceding year. Lodging tax revenues increased by 7.7 percent.

Visitation: Visitation to Washington State also grew in 2011, although the rate of increase was less than the preceding 2009-10 period. Room demand, as measured by Smith Travel Research increased by 3.4 percent for the year (preliminary estimate) compared to a 6.4 percent increase the preceding year. Estimates of visitor air travel on domestic flights increased by 1.5 percent, compared to 2.4 percent from 2009 to 2010. Similarly, the total number of overnight person-trips increased by 1.6 percent, compared to 2.8 percent for the preceding year.

Yakima County data will be available some time in March.

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