Tourism in Pierce County in 2021 made small recoveries from a difficult 2020, but it still fell short of 2019 levels, according to Economic Impacts of Visitors in Washington State, a report released by State of Washington Tourism (SWT) that shows statewide and countywide annual tourism metrics.
In 2021, Pierce County welcomed 8.8 million visitors — a 35.8 percent increase over 2020 — but a 3.8 percent drop from 2019. While visitor spending in Pierce County was at an all-time high of $1.4 billion in 2021 — a 35.8 percent increase over 2020 and a 2.6 percent increase over 2019 — the report authors noted the increase likely had more to do with inflation than visitor purchasing behavior.
Tourism Economics, the national research firm responsible for compiling the report, attributed the increased spending primarily to increased prices, particularly travel-related expenses such as hotel rooms and gasoline, in 2021. Located within driving distance from both Mount Rainier National Park and access to the Salish Sea, Pierce County experienced an increased profile as a place to swing by on 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, in a release. “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 continues its work with partners to bring back and support annual events, and is partnering with local museums and arts organizations to create the TAG Festival, 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 in a release. “We are continuing to bet on the power of safe events to transform both tourism and the local community.”
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