Yakima Valley tourism recovering from pandemic losses

Local tourism visitors decreased 25% from 2019 to 2020
Yakima Valley Tourism
Source: Yakima Valley Tourism

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — Tourism declined heavily in Yakima County during the pandemic, but local tourism officials said the industry is starting to recover from those losses.

“Of all the business sectors, the tourism and hospitality industries were some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe,” said John Cooper, President and CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism.

COVID-19 restrictions prevented restaurants from operating at full capacity and shut down certain entertainment businesses entirely for a period of time.

According to the Washington Tourism Alliance, from 2019 to 2020, the state’s visitor volume decreased by 27%, visitor spending decreased 40%, tax revenue generated by visitors decreased by 32% and direct jobs in the industry declined by 27%.

Yakima County’s numbers fared slightly better: visitor volume decreased by 25%, visitor spending decreased by 29%, tax revenue generated by visitors declined by 31.5% and direct jobs in the industry dropped 22%.

“While our losses in Yakima County were large, the industry is recovering, but it will take time to reach and exceed pre-pandemic levels of spending,” Cooper said.

Cooper said compared to last year, the first quarter of the year showed a little bit of improvement in the local travel and tourism industry.

“The second quarter is where it’s starting to show significant improvement but still not at a level prior to the pandemic,” Cooper said.

Cooper said it may take several years to get back to where the industry was prior to the pandemic, but that the community is resilient enough to make it happen.

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