Downtown Seattle tourism rebounds as its office workers stay away

ByShannon J. Cortes

Jun 1, 2022

Downtown Seattle had a busy holiday weekend as it is the second most popular domestic destination for Memorial Day travelers, after Orlando, Florida, according to reservation data by AAA. But downtown office workers are still mostly working remotely, with downtown office occupancy stagnating at around 33% since late February, according to Placer estimates.

“I think we expect a majority of them to be back. As we approach summer and autumn, all the surveys we have done locally, national data indicate that very few people want to continue working exactly as they have for the past two years,” Jon Scholes, president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA), told the Gee and Ursula Show on KIRO Newsradio: “Very few people want to continue working remotely five days a week. That’s not to say that some people don’t have those prospects, but it’s really on the fringes.”

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This runs counter to previous pandemic forecasts, where business leaders and pundits believed the downtown economic resurgence would come from workers returning to offices, followed by growth in tourism. But the reverse has happened so far: tourism has returned to Seattle before telecommuters.

Most people see themselves spending time in the office and time working remotely, according to Scholes.

At $6,783, Seattle has the second highest average monthly salary for remote workers, according to a recent Data compiled by Teamwork. Seattle just trails San Francisco, Calif., while earning more than Arlington, W.Va., Dallas, Texas and New York, NY

“I expect that by late fall, the majority of downtown workers will be in the office a majority of the week. That could mean three days a week for some people or four,” Scholes said. “And it might not be eight to five.” They can show up at 10 a.m. to avoid the commute, but stay late and go to a game. And so, I think the travel habits are going to change. But ultimately, as we work our way out of this pandemic, the majority of workers are back downtown for most of the week. »

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Hotel occupancy is up 23% since March 2020, while visitors to the Pike Place Market are up nearly 60% since June 2020, according to the DSA. Initially at 76% in March 2020, office workers are still only 34% occupied.

“We are in a much better position than a year ago, and a much better position than three months ago,” added Scholes. “There are fewer people living in tents on the streets, we have seen more police presence, we are investing in security. So that’s task number one: it has to be safe and welcoming for everyone. »

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.