Tourism going strong in Bellevue

Tourism is up in the city, and Visit Bellevue is looking at increased revenues and tax benefits as a boon for city residents that will continue to grow with development.

The city's destination promoter, Visit Bellevue provided City Council this month with data pointing out major gains in tourism activity in 2013 over the prior year. That includes 1.4 million visitors, up 4.4 percent, and $716 million in direct visitor spending, up 3.5 percent.

For David Yusen, chairman for Visit Bellevue's advisory committee, the city has reached "critical mass," and the time is now to spend a little more time and money to better promote its assets.

"Everywhere is up," said Yusen of Bellevue's growing dining scene. Marketing director for Heavy Restaurant Group, which has seen a 33-percent revenue increase for its Lot No. 3 and Purple restaurants. "Bellevue's really seen, especially over the last 3-5 years, a big ramp up."

Visit Bellevue is in the 2015-16 budget process, and is partly funded by the city and also from hotel/motel tax revenue, which should be increasing as future hotel projects wrap up, said Sharon Linton, marketing and communications manager for the organization. That includes various Marriott projects and a Hampton Inn on 116th Avenue Northeast slated to open this fall.

Linton said ideally a portion of King County Metro property next to the Meydenbauer Center that is being purchased by the city could one day have a hotel on it.

"Really successful convention centers have a hotel attached to them," she said, and the Meydenbauer has been keeping busy as a destination spot for conventions. Add in the light rail station across the street in 2023, she said, and the center's attractiveness as an event space will only grow.

Hotel occupancy in 2013 was up 2.6 percent over 2012 at 75 percent. Overnight visitors were up 6.3 percent, and Linton tells the Reporter hotels are reporting big gains in weekend stays.

Visit Bellevue is working on a visitor survey to be put out this summer to better understand what is attracting people here, what they liked about their stay and what they want to see here in the future.

The destination marketing organization currently lacks funding for international marketing, but Linton said Visit Bellevue is looking to partner with its Seattle counterpart for such promotions.

The city has seen a huge growth in its immigrant population over the past several years, and Visit Bellevue has dabbled in the Chinese market with some success, she said.

What Bellevue's tourism gains meant for residents in 2013 was a $127 tax benefit for 54,400 households. Linton said promoting tourism will keep this benefit up, as well as drive more dining, entertainment and other amenities Bellevue residents will also be able to enjoy.


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