Friday, January 18, 2008

Seattle's Unsightly Poor


Yesterday’s P-I featured the latest bad news for homeless people in Seattle. Lately, it’s been hard to keep up. Apparently, the Seattle Convention and Visitor’s Bureau rolled out the red carpet for a visitor’s delegation of mucky-mucks to experience the wonder that is our city. They were brought in to rate Seattle as a convention destination.

For the most part, they liked what they saw. Great cultural attractions. Beautiful surroundings. Lots of nice restaurants, bars, and theaters. Awesome shopping. Etcetera.

But there were a few troubling black marks. Three of them, to be precise. For one, they whined about the weather. Too cloudy. And then there was the cost of air travel. Cleveland, for example, is much more centrally located.

Not much you can do about any of that.

But then there were those pesky homeless people. Such a downer. All that pathetic misery, staring at you, making you feel guilty about your four dollar latté. Now that, quickly said some, is something we can change. If we just made those homeless people go away, we’d be happier.

The story occasioned a fire storm of comments, calling for a get tough policy on visible homelessness.

But here’s the thing. Seattle rains money. Business is booming. Here’s what SCVB’s own ultra-slick promotional material has to say:
“Momentum is a word that often describes positive progress in regard to business, sports and our personal lives. There is no doubt that 2006 was a year of great momentum for Seattle and the region.

In 2006, Seattle and King County experienced a record 9.1 million overnight visitors who generated more than $4.3 billion in revenues and we expect this positive trend to continue through 2007. Seattle’s hotel occupancy, rate and RevPAR growth performed in the upper five percent of all major cities this past year. We welcomed the Hotel 1000 and the Pan Pacific Seattle to our hospitality community and their levels of service, product and technological innovation have been well-received by travelers from around the world.

The Washington State Convention & Trade Center hosted nearly 50 major conventions, which brought almost 150,000 delegates from around the world to our city and region. These conventions alone accounted for nearly 330,000 room nights and an economic impact of $252 million. In conjunction with hotel-booked meetings and a vibrant business travel market, many restaurants and retailers realized the financial benefit that meetings and conventions provide.

Leisure travel to Seattle and the region continues to grow into a year-around business rather than the seasonal market of the past. This is a result of the extensive offerings in the arts, culture, festivals, and sports and recreational events that the area provides. Add to this an array of eclectic restaurants, award-winning Washington State wines and abundant shopping opportunities, and Seattle is an undeniable draw throughout the year.

A record 200 sailings from Seattle to Alaska occurred this past year, delivering nearly 400,000 passengers to our city. Recent data projects that between 30 and 35 percent of these Alaska-bound passengers also booked a Seattle area hotel stay prior to or after their cruise. This positive trend will also carry into 2007 and beyond.

Air travel volume also added to the momentum. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport experienced a record 30 million passengers. Airlines increased flights, including British Airways, which added a second non-stop between London and Seattle in summer 2006 in order to accommodate the growing demand from Europe.”
So, lets review. There’s momentum. Positive trend lines all around. No less than three records broken: cruise passengers, air travel to Seattle, and the overall number of overnight visitors. And Seattle’s hotel occupancy rate is performing in the top 5% of all major cities.

But wait! Here’s more from the King County Visitor Profile and Economic Data report that the Convention Center Visitor’s Bureau commissioned from CIC Research, an independent outfit based in San Diego.
“Over the last 15 years King County visitor industry sales have increased three-fold from $1.6 billion in 1991 to $4.75 billion in 2006. During the same 15-year time period, the volume of overnight visitors increased 54% from 6.1 million to 9.41 million. … Visitor spending has accelerated in the last two years with a combined total growth for 2005 and 2006 of 20%, substantially exceeding the growth in overnight visitor volume of 8%.”

There were an estimated 9,410,000 overnight visitors to King County during 2006 – an increase of 3.4% from 2005 (9,100,000). The 9.4 million visitors was a record for King County and continued a growth trend that started in 2003 (see Figure 4). Overnight visitor spending jumped 10% to $4.75 billion. … Visitor spending also generated a total of $419 million in state and local tax revenues, an increase of 10.4% from $376 million in 2005. …

The visitor industry in King County continued solid growth in both overnight visitor volume and spending for 2006. This marks the third consecutive year of significant growth in the King County visitor industry. The hotel sector led the way with outstanding revenue growth of about 17% for the year and total room nights sold of 8.35 million. The visitor industry should continue to experience growth, albeit more moderate growth throughout 2007 and 2008.”
So, clearly, we need to pass more laws targeting homeless people because they’re a such drag on the local economy. We were sick of them anyway. Perhaps we could create camps of some sort where they’ll never again be seen.

The thing about being rich, it seems, is that there is never quite enough.

1 comment:

Sally said...

You know all those wonderful new (and not-so-new) hotels that the visitors' bureau brags about? They all have room cleaners and restaurant workers and reception staff. Guess whether they're sharing the stupendously-increased profits made by the global corporations which own those hotels and the global corporations which manage those hotels. You know the answer.

You know all those wonderful new (and not-so-new) office buildings that the City of Seattle brags about? They all have office cleaners and reception staff and security officers. Guess whether they're sharing the stupendously-increased profits made by the local, national, and global corporations which own those buildings and the global corporations which manage those buildings. You know the answer.

And now guess where all those people live. I don't know the answer and neither do you, because the "housing wage" for a 2-bedroom apartment in King County is now about $20/hour and these workers usually make about $10/hour. But I do know that they don't live in the condos downtown or in houses in Wallingford. And I do know that some sleep in shelters. If they're lucky.

What a great city we live in.