The Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, the Smithsonian, the Las Vegas strip, Disneyland ... and the City of Subdued Excitement.
Really? Do those belong together?
Well, yeah — at least sort of.
Though it doesn't have any well-known tourist attractions likely to draw people from around the world, Bellingham was one of 14 towns included on Forbes' recent list of "Coolest towns for your summer vacation," which it said included "quirky, character-filled small towns that are anything but sleepy."
OK, quirky and character-filled — we can see that. Guess the rest of the nation is just catching up with what we already know.
“The city itself offers excellent outdoor recreation, including orca whale watching, hiking, kayaking, sailing, golf and river rafting on the Skagit River," travel designer Marty Behr, who founded Revealed America, told Forbes about Bellingham. "Accommodations, fine dining and shopping abound in the central core and the historic Fairhaven district.”
The Pacific Northwest was represented on the list, as Bellingham was joined by Washington's Leavenworth and Plain, as well as Tofino, British Columbia, and Astoria, Oregon. The other 10 places to visit on the list were:
▪ Wellfleet, Massachusetts
▪ Sebastopol, California
▪ Ketchum, Idaho
▪ Bedord, New York
▪ Durango, Colorado
▪ Santa Ynez and Los Olivos, California
▪ Crested Butte, Colorado
▪ Bozeman, Montana
▪ Washington, Connecticut
▪ Cody, Wyoming.
Tourism is big business in Whatcom County, according to numbers provided by Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, accounting for $646.5 million of economic impact in 2017 — the fifth highest total for a county in Washington state, behind only King, Pierce, Spokane and Snohomish.
Included in that total was $251.6 million for food service, $95.8 million in retail sales, $87.6 million in air and ground travel, $67 million in recreation, entertainment and arts and $56.9 million in transportation and gas.
Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism also reported that tourism helped support 6,480 jobs in Whatcom County totaling $159.6 million in earnings in 2017 and generated $16.9 million in city and county taxes.
So far in 2018, Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism reports Bellingham's year-to-date hotel occupancy is at 62.7 percent, which is down 9.1 percent compared to 2017. But Bellingham had a 70.2 percent hotel occupancy rate in May, which was up 5.95 percent from May 2017.
Whatcom County numbers mirrored Bellingham, with year-to-date hotel occupancy standing at 61.3 percent — down 6.5 percent — and May occupancy at 69.6 percent, which is up 7.3 percent over May 2017.