May 6, 2022—Tacoma, Wash. – Tourism in Pierce County in 2021 made gains from a disastrous 2020, but was still short of 2019 levels, according to Economic Impacts of Visitors in Washington State, a report released this week by State of Washington Tourism (SWT) that showed state-wide and county-wide annual tourism metrics.
Pierce County welcomed 8.8 million visitors in 2021, a 35.8% increase over 2020, but a 3.8% drop from 2019. While visitor spending in Pierce County was at a record $1.4 billion in 2021 (a 35.8% increase over 2020 and a 2.6% increase over 2019), the report authors were careful to note that such an increase likely had more to do with inflation than with visitor purchasing behavior.
Tourism Economics, the national research firm compiling the report, attributes the increased spending primarily to higher prices, particularly on travel-related expenses – hotel rooms and gasoline among them – in 2021. As primarily a drive destination with both Mount Rainier National Park and access to the Salish Sea, Pierce County enjoyed an increased profile as an ideal place for road trips during the pandemic and ensuing restrictions on travel, events, and activities.
“In 2020, we were given a glimpse of a travel landscape without events, concerts, business travel, festivals, sports, or meetings. We are working hard with our partners to reconstitute that tourism marketplace,” said Dean Burke, President and CEO of Travel Tacoma – Mt. Rainier Tourism & Sports. “When we dig deep into the data, we see that beyond our county’s natural and diverse geographic resources, it has been the rolling return of these events and meetings that have been critical to getting us back to where we are today.”
Travel Tacoma has continued to work with partners to bring back and support annual events, and is partnering with local museums and arts organizations to create the first ever TAG Festival – Together… In Art and Glass – a celebration of glass art in Pierce County on May 22.
“Tacoma went to great lengths to host the state’s first safe, approved indoor events in February 2021 because it matters, and the data supports it,” Burke said. “We are continuing to bet on the power of safe events to transform both tourism and the local community.”
Other highlights of the data include:
- Tourism directly employed 10,246 people in Pierce County in 2021, which was 2.26% of the total workforce.
- Visitor spending resulted in $151.3 million in state and local tax collections, saving the average Pierce County household $457.20 in taxes.
- In 2021, visitors to Pierce County spent $227 million on lodging, $428 million on food and beverage, $202 million on recreation, $372 million on retail, and $181.3 million on transportation.
# # #
Travel Tacoma – Mt. Rainier Tourism & Sports is the official destination marketing organization for Tacoma and Pierce County, Washington. Accredited by Destinations International. For more information, visit www.traveltacoma.com.
Chief Data Officer, Travel Tacoma