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Six Superlatives about Travel in Washington State

May 9, 2023

For you and your family, a vacation is restorative and relaxing. For Washington state, your visit is essential support for the economy. This week, we celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week and recognize the role of the travel industry in growing the economy, cultivating vibrant communities, creating quality job opportunities, and stimulating business activity. 

National view 

  • The national travel industry generated a $2.6 trillion economic output in 2022 and supported 15 million jobs and fueled communities, small businesses, and working families  
  • Travel spending also generated nearly $160 billion in federal, state, and local taxes in 2022 — revenue that helped fund critical public services while saving each U.S. household an average of $1,270 in taxes 

Washington state 

The visitor industry is a vital and significant segment of King County and Washington State's economy and is essential to the Port of Seattle because Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is the primary gateway for Washington state visitors. The Port's cruise terminals also welcome visitors as the gateway of choice for the Alaska cruise market.  

  • Tourism is the fourth largest industry in Washington State, employing more than 205,000 residents and generating more than $21.9 billion in annual revenue in the state (Source: Washington Tourism Marketing Authority)  
  • On an average day, visitors to Washington spend $60 million

Washington tourism is heavily reliant on our great out-of-doors. People come here to hike, bike, and boat. They’re inspired to see our mountains, forests, lakes, and sea as well as to learn how the stewardship of nature is intertwined with our region’s wealth of indigenous cultures. 

The traveling public wants to experience destinations with a sincere commitment to sustainability. The online travel agency, Expedia, recently commissioned a survey of 11,000 travel-consumers globally and found that 90% of consumers look for sustainable options when traveling.  

“The Port of Seattle — one of Washington state’s largest economic engines and owner of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — is working to identify solutions that maximize the positive impacts of tourism while we protect the Great Northwest,” said Seattle Port Commissioner Fred Felleman. 


Washington state superlatives 

Washington state is #1 in so many ways. Here’s a quick list of superlatives and itineraries to enjoy this gorgeous state whether you’re visiting from out of town or doing a staycation.  

1. Pike Place Market is the longest continuously operating farmer’s market in the country 

Established in 1907, this public market showcases the best of the region — the freshest produce, stunning flowers at an unreal price, and artisanal crafts from local makers.  

There are so many great places to visit in Seattle, and these pro tips from two locals will make your day. 


2. The San Juan Islands were voted tops by USA Today readers  

The archipelago of more than 400 islands is loved for its dense evergreen forests, breathtaking views from water and land, plus the abundance of wildlife, including the iconic resident orca whales.   

On the way, there are historic Victorian seaports, bridges with a view, and small towns with delicious shellfish and a nautical vibe. Did you know that ferry boats and their routes are part of the Washington State Highway system? A breeze off the water and the eyepopping views are the cures for what ails you.    

3. Olympic National Park is the most-visited place in Washington 

Home to temperate rain forests, natural hot springs, pristine mountain lakes, and wild Pacific Ocean beaches, the park with 26 native species is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

By contrast, did you know that North Cascades is the least-visited National Park in Washington? 

Not because it has nothing to offer, but because it’s more difficult to access. No crowds and breathtaking scenery are a win-win on our list. This wilderness area, called the “North American Alps,” offers a gorgeous alpine landscape of snow-capped peaks crowned by more than 300 glaciers.  


4. Washington is the iciest state in the lower 48 

With more than 3,000 glaciers, Washington has the most glaciers of the 48 contiguous states (Alaska takes the big prize). Did you know that there are 25 major glaciers on Mount Rainier alone? Fire meets ice at America’s most notable volcano. Sixty miles south of Seattle, glacier-capped Mount Rainer, is known locally as “The Mountain.” Within the park you will find millennium old-growth trees, alpine fields of wildflowers, and truly memorable hiking for all. 

5. Seattle is the number one U.S. port for cruise departures to Alaska 

Almost half of cruises to Alaska (45%) set sail from Seattle and boost the regional economy. For example, the 2023 cruise season is expected to support over $900 million in economic activity, 5,500 jobs, and generate $14.5 million in statewide taxes. Each ship brings in over $4 million to the local economy every time it provisions at the dock in Seattle. 

The Port of Seattle and Washington state have been the gateway to Alaska ever since the Alaska Gold Rush began in 1897. Much of this history is a short distance from the cruise terminals. But who wants to be stuck with their luggage all day? Port Valet, a free service for cruise passengers from the Port of Seattle, magically whisks your luggage off to SEA Airport on departure day so you can spend your last precious hours exploring the coolest parts of the city.  


6. Washington wine country has been voted “America’s Best Wine Region” more than once 

USA Today readers voted Walla Walla the best for an unprecedented three years in a row. Washington state is the second largest producer (after California) of premium wines in the country with 1,000 wineries contributing more than $8 billion in-state economic impact a year. It’s a growing industry with four new wineries cropping up every month.  

(Source: Washington State Wine Commission

7. Washington is the largest producer of hops in the world 

The state provides 70% of the hops grown in the U.S. The rich agricultural center of the Yakima Valley is the largest single source of hops in the world and supplies most of the hops produced in the state. They’re put to good use in the impressive beer scene of 375 craft breweries that embrace the state’s “drink local” ethos. Discover award-winning ales, creatively infused brews, seasonal flavors, and hoppy selections.  

This itinerary features the Ballard neighborhood in North Seattle but there are many others.  

The Port supports statewide tourism 

One of the Port's Century Agenda Strategic Objectives is to "Advance this region as a leading tourism destination and business gateway." To fulfill this objective, the Port’s Tourism Development team focuses on increasing the economic development of the region. The Port team collaborates with State of Washington Tourism office to promote Seattle as the gateway for cruising to Alaska and to encourage people to visit Seattle and Washington state before and after their cruise.

The Port’s support for the tourism industry comes through several programs:

  1. Providing matching grants to help organizations develop and grow responsible tourism, sustainable, or adventure and nature tourism projects and diversity and inclusion in marketing.   
  2. Support for tourism destinations and visitor attractions to advertise at SEA Airport 
  3. Educating travel agents and media in other countries about cruising from Seattle and the beautiful destinations in Washington

Photo credits: Experience Washington

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