An “aggressive cruise campaign” by Seattle and Washington state this year has seen cruise passenger numbers rise from 960,000 in 2016 to 1,071,594 passengers in 2017.
The destination worked along the Cruise Line Association and worked closely with travel agents selling cruise to boost the numbers.
“Today, we have half the cruise market to Alaska,” said Ron Peck, tourism director for the Port of Seattle, speaking to TTG at WTM London on November 6.
Peck said that he expected the number to increase to 1.1 million passengers next year.
The boost in numbers will be partly due to the arrival of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Bliss, which will sail passengers to Alaska from the recently renovated Pier 66 in Seattle, launching in August 2018. The ship will be the largest vessel to take passengers to Alaska.
Peck said Seattle also expects a 40% increase in small ship cruising next year, thanks in part to the arrival of two new ships from American Cruise Line.
The two new itineraries for 2018 in Puget Sound will see passengers embark and disembark in Seattle.
“The unique experiences offered by small ship cruises are an excellent way to experience the Pacific Northwest,” said Peck.
He added that cruisers tend to stay in Seattle for one or two days before or after the cruise, before going on to explore more of the Pacific Northwest region.
Peck said he anticipated international visitor numbers to increase by 3% next year, facilitated in part by increased airlift from the likes of Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic from the UK earlier this year.
Seattle became the 9th busiest airport in the US this year. Peck compared the figure to 2013, when Seattle was the 16th busiest.
Plans to accommodate the rise in visitor numbers include a new, expanded international arrivals terminal for Sea-Tac airport, opening in 2019, and further expansion to its North Terminal for domestic travellers.