The Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority (RTA) and Visit Seattle this week announced the launch of a new King County campaign to help accelerate local spending in the tourism industry, which was largely shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The campaign asks that people “Do Something,” like spend money here in this county before they travel elsewhere. Additionally, it intends to serve historically disadvantaged neighborhoods and promote minority-owned businesses throughout King County.

The campaign targets locals and those in the region who find themselves having that urge to “Do Something!” With months of pandemic-related closures threatening small businesses, King County tourism leaders want to make it clear that now is the time to band together to – safely and responsibly – support the local businesses that make the county unique.

The new campaign focuses on the people of King County, its bakers, chefs, toy shop owners, winemakers, bookstore owners, barbers and local lodging establishments. They are all waiting to provide their services to locals who have been sheltering in place for months. With the new “All Clear King County” Safety Pledge, visitors and residents can feel reassured that companies and service providers are taking all of the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe as they travel in their nearby communities.

King County has food and culture, coffee and wine, hiking and kayaking. These experiences are still waiting to be had — and unfortunately the “old normal” isn’t coming back anytime soon. So instead of sitting, stewing and stressing, the Seattle Southside RTA and Visit Seattle want people to do something about it (within their comfort level), to get out and enjoy all the county has to offer in accordance with the guidelines of this “new normal.”

“As the home of the first domestic case of COVID-19, King County was hit hard and fast. Our community shut down more quickly and implemented stricter requirements than most. During this daunting time of recovery, we wanted to create a campaign that gave residents a chance to help — in big ways and small ways,” said Ali Daniels, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Visit Seattle. “Everyone is navigating this pandemic at their own pace, and this campaign shows you how you can make a difference safely.”

“Businesses have had to make heart-wrenching decisions on how to cut costs to stay afloat, and many small businesses may not have the means to market or promote themselves,” said Katherine Kertzman, president and CEO of the Seattle Southside RTA. “We’re proud to partner with Visit Seattle on a new campaign that gives these businesses a promotional boost. This campaign encourages King County residents and visitors to support local businesses and ‘Do Something’ at their own comfort level and pace. We’re very excited about this collaborative campaign, and we are optimistic that locals and visitors alike will come together to support businesses countywide.”

While the full economic impact of COVID-19 on King County is not yet known, the data points below provide confirmation of the devastating impact the pandemic has had on tourism and hospitality in this region:

    • In 2019, the tourism industry generated $11.7 billion in total economic impact, along with 80,317 jobs. Visitors also paid $837.5 million in state and local taxes, which offset the annual household tax burden for local residents by $1,425.
    • While regional hotel occupancies have shown consistent growth in recent weeks, occupancy is down significantly in comparison to prior years. For the week of Sept. 20-26, for example, the Seattle metro market had 38.5% occupancy (compared to 91.7% last year).
    • The 2019 cruise season in Seattle generated $893.6 million and provided more than 5,500 local jobs. The 2020 season was canceled entirely.
    • According to Tourism Economics, despite only accounting for 11% of employment in the US, the leisure and hospitality sector constitutes more than 40% of the country’s excess unemployment, with nearly 16.9 million jobs lost.
    • As of this week, 54 national citywide conventions previously booked at the Washington State Convention Center have cancelled, resulting in a loss of $379 million in economic impact.

The Seattle Southside RTA and Visit Seattle are grateful to all of the King County Councilmembers, and specifically Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Rod Dembowski and Dave Upthegrove, along with Executive Dow Constantine, for championing this initiative since March and for understanding the power of travel and tourism and the benefits they provide to our community and residents in this region.