Paine Field was the county’s #1 tourist attraction. Not now
EVERETT — Paine Field was Snohomish County’s most popular tourist destination — was.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The visit to the huge Boeing Co. jet assembly plant, which embarks from the Boeing Future of Flight, was suspended two years ago. The in-person visit attracts some 300,000 visitors each year. He did not resume.
Another great public delight, the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum, has been closed for over two years. The foundation that runs the museum closed it in May 2020, citing pandemic concerns. The museum remains closed to the public.
Before the pandemic, “the biggest tourist spot in the county was Paine Field and people coming from all over the world to see the plane there,” County Executive Dave Somers said recently during a tourism roundtable on line.
With fewer attractions at the Snohomish County-owned airport, county officials hope to replace visitors and the money the airport attractions brought in.
The Snohomish County Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department is stepping up promotion of area summer festivals and events, outdoor recreation and dining options.
Make no mistake, tourism is one of the county’s top economic drivers, ranking No. 2 or 3, depending on the study.
In 2019, visitors to Snohomish County spent more than $1.2 billion here, making the county one of Washington’s top three tourist markets.
Visitor numbers and dollar figures have crashed statewide during the pandemic. Last year, the numbers started to rise.
Washington welcomed more than 95 million visitors last year, David Blanford, executive director of the Washington Tourism Alliance, told roundtable participants.
“It looks good, but it’s really only 87% of the 2019 numbers. It shows we still have a ways to go,” Blanford said.
“Visitor spending totaled $17.7 billion in 2021 – which is great – but that’s only 81% of 2019,” Blanford said.
County totals for 2021 also trail.
Lodging revenue fell 12% last year.
The county’s retail sector, which includes small independent stores and the Seattle Retail Outlets in Tulalip, a draw for international tourists, fell 12%.
Leisure, another pillar of the region’s tourism industry, is also down 12%, said Christian Folk, senior digital strategist at DVA Advertising and Public Relations. DVA, based in Bend, Oregon, provides tourism marketing services to the county.
One of the reasons visitor numbers are down here and across the state is that corporate travel and convention bookings continue to lag. The recovery is unlikely to occur before 2024 or 2025, according to industry experts.
Still, there is good news, Molly Spector, the county’s regional tourism projects coordinator, told roundtable participants.
Visitors to Snohomish County spend more time here.
In the first three months of this year, more than half of all trips involved stays longer than five days, up from 29% in the same period a year ago, Spector said.
Longer stays usually mean more money spent on food, accommodations, and entertainment.
According to Anthony Anton, President and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, for every dollar a visitor spends on a place to stay, an additional $2 is spent in the community.
“Every time we sell a room, we double the other amounts we contribute to our community,” Anton said at an online rally hosted by Economic Alliance Snohomish County. Hotels and motels are usually owned by local franchisees who pay to be marketed under the name of a national or regional chain, he said.
The Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, which was canceled in 2020, drew more than 800,000 visitors when it resumed last year.
This year, many local festivals and events have returned or expanded.
The list includes Arlington SkyFest (formerly Arlington Fly-In), Summer Meltdown near Monroe, and Salty Sea Days in Everett. Everett was hosting a new event this year Everett 3on3. A Boeing-sponsored event, the basketball tournament was held in the city’s downtown area last month.
Everett’s waterfront is one of the county’s top 10 tourist destinations, port officials said.
The waterfront could attract even more visitors next year when the row of restaurants at Waterfront Place debuts. More than half a dozen restaurants, bakeries, brasseries, wineries and cafes are expected to open at the port next year.
“As more amenities and attractions come online at Waterfront Place, particularly dining options, we expect to attract more visitors, likely doubling site visits,” said Lisa Lefeber, Port CEO.
While some Snohomish County-owned airport attractions are still closed, the volume of air traffic to Paine Field from Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Phoenix — is increasing, said Spector, the county’s tourism coordinator.
“This is great news because it means people are flying directly into Snohomish County rather than King County,” Spector said. “Let’s hope they stay in the county.”
At Boeing Future of Flight, the on-site Everett factory tour has been replaced with a 45-minute documentary narrated by staff.
For a $20 Backstage Pass, visitors can view the film and receive a one-day installation pass. A visit that does not include the movie costs $12.
Since the launch of the Backstage Pass option in March, monthly attendance at Future of Flight has doubled from a year ago, Norman Mah, a Boeing spokesperson, wrote in an email to the Daily Herald. .
On a recent morning, about 100 people packed into the Boeing Future of Flight theater to watch the documentary. It was an international audience from Germany, Australia, Belgium, UK, India, China and South Africa.
Officially, Boeing does not expect in-person factory tours to resume this year. “We will continue to consider restarting it,” Boeing spokesman Mah wrote.
Off the record, a Future of Flight staff member recently told theatergoers, “For those of you who want to know when the factory tour is coming back, that’s when, not if,” the person said. . “Probably next year.”
Janice Podsada: 425 339-3097; email@example.com;