A recent FYI Guy story on tourists' satisfaction with Seattle drew 500 comments online, plus a flood of emails and phone calls. Here are the highlights.
Last week, I reported on a large-scale new survey of visitor satisfaction at the top U.S. tourist destinations, which was conducted by market research giant J.D. Power.
Seattle’s ranking was less than stellar: 37th out of 50. Tourists dinged us on a number of fronts, including: Cost — the city is expensive and maybe not a great value for the money. Traffic congestion and poor signage make it tough for a visitor to get around the city and the region. Visitors also noted a lack of friendliness from staff at restaurants, tourist sites and other venues.
Seattle Times readers weighed in on the subject, too. The column garnered about 500 comments online, and I received a flood of emails and phone calls.
Most readers seemed to agree with the main points of the survey and felt that Seattle has some room for improvement as a tourist destination.
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But the main reader complaint — the city’s lack of cleanliness — wasn’t something that seemed to bother visitors in the survey. Seattle’s score for cleanliness of the metro area was on par with other destinations:
“Had family in from out of state and we went to Seattle for a day. Nobody was impressed and could not believe how a city with so much rain could be so dirty.”
“Any tourist who is walking or driving around our once clean city cannot but help notice the amount of filth and garbage … it is so pervasive that I wonder if we are all collectively just becoming anesthetized to this plight as just our ‘new normal’ … what ever happened to ‘don’t be a litterbug!?'”
Many readers also noted that, in addition to litter, open-air drug use, panhandling, and homelessness are a jarring experience for visitors:
“Most tourists visit Pike Place, and of course many stop by Victor Steinbrueck Park to take in the view. Have you been to that park in the last 5-10 years? I’m amazed tourists ever come back. Can’t we at least clean up some the areas that showcase our city?”
“I enjoy Seattle and my husband and I go downtown on a regular basis. But on our last visit to Pike Place Market at 8:00 AM a woman was throwing up on the corner. The time before that a man was totally naked in a wheelchair next to the pig at the market around noon. Maybe it is time that we look at how we are handling the city and look at the city thru the eyes of a visitor.”
Readers also agreed with the survey that Seattle is a very expensive place to visit, in particular the cost of a hotel room. I heard from a veteran’s group that holds its annual reunion in a different city each year — it’s Seattle’s turn, and hotel-room sticker shock pushed them out of town:
“Much to our disappointment, Seattle’s hotel prices were much too expensive. So we’re staying up in Everett. Of the 26 reunion cities our group has chosen, we have never had to adjust cities because of pricing. No hotels were willing to negotiate.”
A number of readers suggested staying outside the city or using airbnb instead of a hotel:
“Travel tip: none of the Seattle area’s natural beauty is IN Seattle. Save some coin and stay in the outskirts.”
“Since I live here, I don’t know the airbnb market too well, but know a few friends that have rented their homes out, well below the $193 (average hotel rate) and are located in the city.”
But for all the complaints, there was no shortage of folks sticking up for their hometown as a fantastic tourist destination. Some criticized the results or methodology of the survey, which was conducted from February to July in 2016:
“It is a shame the study didn’t consider August and September, some of the nicer months around here, which is more important in a place like Seattle than in Florida or other southern locations.”
“My hometown Seattle is far better than most other cities I have traveled to. Art, music, food, funk, beauty is how I describe Seattle. Love it.”
“It’s a flawed survey, it should be about ‘Did you enjoy yourself and would you visit again?’ most folks would say ‘Yes.’ It dinged us for weather, traffic, cost, etc. All the same things exist in NYC, and NYC is awesome.”
“If a location is expensive, you know about it in advance, it is not a surprise. Seattle should not be downgraded due to cost. Also I have heard consistently that we remain a top tourist destination, so either the demographic was off on that study, or the line of questioning.”
“I can’t remember the last time I had a surly waiter – anywhere. And I eat out a lot. But I do see a lot of tourists in a bad mood taking it out on the waiters.”
And one Seattle booster, noting that tourists keep pouring into town, borrowed a famous Yogi Berra quote:
“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
To read all the comments, scroll to the end of this column.
Note: Comments were edited for spelling and brevity.