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WA, US Welcome More International Tourists

PHOTO: If you lived overseas, would you choose Seattle as a vacation destination? Last year, 2.8 million international visitors did. Photo credit: Bosenok/iStockphoto.
PHOTO: If you lived overseas, would you choose Seattle as a vacation destination? Last year, 2.8 million international visitors did. Photo credit: Bosenok/iStockphoto.
May 23, 2014

SEATTLE – On Thursday, President Barack Obama outlined a push to encourage more international travelers to the United States – to spend money and create local jobs for the Americans who feed them, house them and show them around.

Washington state is already ahead of that curve, with almost 3 million international visitors last year, just to Seattle and King County.

David Blandford, media relations manager for the Washington Tourism Alliance and Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the state has tourism offices in more than a half-dozen countries, including China, France and Australia, to keep Washington a top-of-mind vacation spot.

"Overseas flights into Sea-Tac have increased dramatically in the past two or three years,” he points out. “The international segment of tourism shows perhaps the best growth opportunity of all the segments, and so we're very eager to grow our share."

The Washington Tourism Alliance has just released a new Washington State Visitors Guide.

While scenic Seattle is the most-visited place in the state, Blandford says the goal is to prompt more people to explore more options – and one of the reasons the international market is lucrative is, they have time to look around.

"They have more vacation days than we Americans do,” he points out. “And they want to see Washington wine country, and three national parks surrounding the city.

“They do want to do go to Spokane, to Yakima, to Bellingham – and they have ample time to do it."

The National Economic Council estimates a tourist from overseas spends a couple of weeks in the U.S. and an average of $4,500 on the trip.

The president's plan focuses on making the entry process into the country easier for foreign visitors, including shorter waiting periods for visas, and shorter and friendlier passport and customs lines.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA