Out-of-town tourists return to downtown in growing numbers

Just three years after the pandemic abruptly halted travel around the world, Seattle has made significant progress getting tourists to return downtown. The success of downtown in attracting out-of-town visitors and generating strong demand for hotels, particularly during the summer months, underscores the city’s status as a premier tourist destination in the Pacific Northwest.

Boasting iconic landmarks such as the Space Needle, Pike Place Market and waterfront, downtown offers a diverse array of attractions and experiences that appeal to travelers from around the world. In 2023, the center city saw post-pandemic highs of out-of-town visitors (i.e., visitors from 100 or more miles away) and a record number of cruise ship passengers traveling through Seattle. In the summer of 2023, downtown also recorded the highest two-day total number of visitors since early 2018.

With the opening of the new Seattle Convention Center Summit building, the number of new conventions secured in 2023 surpassed 2019’s total. Hotel demand continues to rise and is closing in on pre-pandemic levels — even exceeding 2019 demand multiple times in the summer of 2023. Visits to some of downtown’s most-loved attractions have also passed pre-pandemic counts, affirming that tourists are coming back to experience all that downtown has to offer. Additionally, as one of just a few major U.S. cities with all its professional sports teams playing downtown, our sports venues are significant assets that helped increase visitor foot traffic in 2023.

Key Takeaways

  • Between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2023, downtown Seattle welcomed nearly 3.5 million unique out-of-town visitors*, a post-pandemic high and an 8% increase compared to 2022.
  • Between July and September 2023, downtown hotels sold more room nights than during the same period in 2019.
  • In 2023, downtown saw the highest two-day total visitor foot traffic since at least 2018, with nearly 900,000 visits downtown over the July 22-23 weekend.
  • Out-of-town visitor foot traffic in 2023 surpassed 2019 levels for many downtown attractions, including the Seattle Aquarium and Space Needle.
*For this report, out-of-town visitors are defined as visitors whose home is 100-plus miles from downtown Seattle.

In 2023, the Seattle Convention Center brought in 75 new conventions, surpassing 2019’s count by 27%.



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The number of unique out-of-town visitors coming downtown during the summer continued to increase, growing to nearly 3.5 million in 2023.

Unique Out-of-Town Visitors
100-plus miles from downtown, Memorial Day–Labor Day

Total Two-day Visitor Downtown Foot Traffic

  • Downtown saw record daily visitor traffic during summer 2023.
  • The weekend of July 22-23 saw the highest two-day visitor foot-traffic counts since at least 2018.
  • Visitors from more than 100-plus miles away accounted for nearly 45% of the foot traffic during that record July weekend.
  • In 2023, downtown hotels sold nearly 3.9 million hotel room nights. This represented 92% of the room nights sold in 2019 and a 12% increase over 2022.
  • June-October 2023 saw a full recovery in hotel room demand with some months even surpassing 2019 numbers.
  • Hotel demand for non-summer months has not recovered to 2019 levels due in part to lagging demand from business travelers.
Hotel Room Nights Sold

Source: Visit Seattle, STR.
Cruise Passengers

Source: Port of Seattle. Note: 2024 passenger figure is the current Port of Seattle estimate.

In 2023, Seattle welcomed a record 1.7 million cruise passengers to Seattle.

With the cruise season running from April to October, the Port of Seattle is estimating another 1.7 million passengers will take 276 sailings in 2024.

Seattle Aquarium — Total and Out-of-Town Visitor Foot Traffic

Space Needle — Total and Out-of-Town Visitor Foot Traffic

Stadiums — Total and Out-of-Town Visitor Foot Traffic

Pike Place Market — Total and Out-of-Town Visitor Foot Traffic


*Stadiums include Lumen Field and T-Mobile Park. Climate Pledge Arena, which opened in 2021, was not included in these counts.

Credit: The Seattle Times / Dean Rutz
  • In 2023, visits to the Seattle Aquarium, Space Needle and both Lumen Field and T-Mobile Park surpassed 2019 numbers for visitor foot traffic.
  • Downtown’s iconic Pike Place Market welcomed 5.4 million visitors in 2023 — a 13% increase from 2022. While the Market has not yet caught up to pre-pandemic levels, it continues to see an increase in traffic.
  • Lumen Field and T-Mobile Park visitors have been rapidly increasing with a combined 8.5 million visits in 2023 — a 25% increase from 2022.
  • Climate Pledge Arena, which reopened in 2021, is also indicating an upward trend, with nearly 3 million visitors in 2023 — a 11% increase from 2022.
  • Fueled by major concerts and the MLB All-Star game, July 2023 was the biggest month for Lumen Field and T-Mobile Park with 1.5 million visitors — a 56% increase from 2022.

According to the International Trade Administration, the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area ranked #15 nationally for annual overseas visitation in 2022 (the most current year for which data were available).

Washington state as a whole was ranked #12 with a 243.4% change in annual overseas visitation in 2022.

Visitors to downtown had an estimated spending potential of $1.2 billion in 2023 — a 8.4% year-over-year increase.

Top 10 Home Origin Cities of Visitors — Total Trips
July-September 2023
8.7%Portland area
8.6%Los Angeles area
4.8%San Francisco area
4.3%New York City area
2.8%San Diego area
2.7%Chicago area
20.5%San Jose area
2.4%Spokane area
2.3%Phoenix area
2.2%Washington, D.C., area
Note: These data only reflect domestic visitor travel from within the United States. Each area reflects visits from the major city’s Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Names have been shortened for readability.