The Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority (RTA), in partnership with Visit Seattle, continues to monitor the quickly developing COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. More than 82,000 cases and 2,800 fatalities have been confirmed, mostly in China, but with growing infections in South Korea and other Asian nations, Europe and the Middle East.
While there are just 60 confirmed cases and no fatalities in the U.S., health officials warn of the potential for COVID-19 to spread quickly. Several U.S. cities and municipalities have begun to mobilize health care resources and plan for active disease mitigation should it become necessary.
Comparison with SARS Epidemic in 2003
                                     SARS                                  COVID-19 (to date)
Global infections           8,098                                   82,550
Fatalities                       774                                      2,810
Note: The U.S. experienced a 30% decline in visits from China and a 10% loss from other Asian markets as a result of SARS
King County Assessment

  • Health and Medical Area Command (HMAC) is at Activation Level 1 (full activation)
  • Confirmed COVID-19 cases: 0
  • Persons Assessed: 298
  • Persons Under Investigation: 17 

Travel Industry Assessment
As this global health emergency is having a significant impact on the travel industry, the RTA is maintaining regular contact with essential regional, national, and international resources including the U.S. Travel Association, Meetings Mean Business, King County Department of Health, and Port of Seattle.
The RTA is actively tracking the business impact from COVID-19 and would like to know any direct cancellations or other significant impacts. Please send all information to Donna Bennett at
Corporate Travel
This week, some corporations including Nestle, Cargill, and L’Oréal announced travel restrictions related to COVID-19. However, no government travel restrictions for domestic U.S. travel have been instituted and public health officials have not issued travel guidelines.  
Meetings and Conventions
To date, no confirmed citywide conventions at the Washington State Convention Center have been cancelled or experienced low registration, though there have been a handful of regional cancellations for groups with Chinese attendees or companies. The following resources address crisis management, force majeure clauses and other relevant industry concerns:

Overseas Travel Impact

  • China is the Seattle area’s second largest international visitor market (behind Canada), representing 25% of all overseas visitation
  • Based on current information, Tourism Economics, conservatively projects a 28% decrease in visitation from China in 2020
  • The Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued a moratorium on all business group travel and package (hotel and flight) travel in January. On February 24, the Ministry again cautioned against travel to the U.S. for what it calls “excessive epidemic prevention measures”
  • Concern grows with rising COVID-19 infections in South Korean and Japanese travel markets
  • The RTA is running supportive messaging via WeChat and Weibo platforms.

Note: International visitation is vital to Washington state and the region and our destination is on the leading edge of COVID-19 impact being so close to Sea-Tac Airport. However, it is important to note that the international market represents just 10% of regional tourism and that domestic leisure travel, business travel and other segments are, as yet, much less impacted.
Air Service Update

  • More than 30 airlines have suspended service to and from China, with some 25,000 cumulative seat cancelations and $652 million in lost airline revenue
  • All flights between China and Sea-Tac via Delta Air Lines and Hainan Airlines remain suspended. Delta has communicated that its flights from Beijing and Shanghai will remain suspended through at least April 30
  • While Delta has suspended some of its services from Seoul-Incheon to U.S. destinations, it has only temporarily decreased frequency of service to SEA Airport at this point. Delta will operate this route five-times per week (previously daily) through April 30 


  • Port of Seattle will welcome the Celebrity Millennium for five sailings in April and May. This is a result of Celebrity repositioning the Millennium from Asia. No other changes to the 2020 cruise season, which begins in early April, have been announced. You can read more about the projected impact of the coronavirus on the cruise industry here.

Guidance for Travelers

Industry Messaging and Information

  • The U.S. Travel Association encourages travelers and the U.S. travel industry to monitor and follow guidance offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (links and industry updates on the U.S. Travel Association website)
  • Travel Industry Talking Points (U.S. Travel Association)

The RTA will continue to closely monitor the quickly evolving COVID-19 situation. Please let me or any of our team know if you have questions or needs for more data.

Katherine Kertzman