Vaccication (noun, vac-ci-CA-tion) — a travel holiday taken by individuals and families who are now fully vaccinated and who have been stuck at home far too long.
Leisure travel is back, and with a vengeance. As of May, the passenger volume at SeaTac Airport had recovered to 68% of the pre-pandemic level, the highest monthly ratio since the outbreak began, and arriving visitors are bringing far more strollers than briefcases. The surge in tourism likely will carry most lodging markets through a strong summer season.
What happens in the fall is an open question. Many companies are bringing their employees back to the office, but it is unclear when traditional business travel will resume. And while the state’s convention centers are reopening, several years may be required for group demand to fully recover.
Among three samples of hotels in King and Snohomish Counties, market demand for the second quarter 2021 was nearly triple the volume reported in 2Q 2020. Room prices are recovering as well: the increase from 2Q 2020 to 2Q 2021 averaged 22%.
Recent openings include the element in Tukwila, the Silver Cloud Hotel in Ruston, and The Lodge at St. Edward’s Park in Kenmore. Construction is underway on hotels in the Seattle CBD, South Lake Union, South Tacoma, and Downtown Bellevue. Work is still paused on another Bellevue hotel and one in Marysville. Most proposals for new hotels remain on hold, but developers are beginning to emerge from hibernation.
Hotel sales during 2Q 2021 include Hotel 1000 in the Seattle CBD, the new Residence Inn in Renton, and three budget hotels in Pierce County, one of which was purchased for conversion to apartments. King County closed on hotels in Seattle and Renton, part of its effort to acquire housing for homeless residents.
The recent surge in tourism is an encouraging sign, particularly for the coming summer season. However, a full market recovery will await the return of business travelers and a resumption of conventions, weddings, and other group functions. We continue to project recovery periods of one additional year in rural and resort markets, two years in suburban markets, and three years in the Seattle CBD.