Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
“We are the gateway to Alaska,” said Caitlyn Shearer, tourism manager for Visit Seattle, which, alongside Air Canada, hosted a networking event for travel pros Monday night (April 3) at the W Toronto hotel.
Shearer was referring to the fact that Seattle, located on Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, is responsible for 50 per cent of cruising to Alaska – thanks to the Port of Seattle – making it an ideal spot for pre and post-voyage itineraries.
“Travel advisors can enhance that cruise experience for their clients,” Shearer said, noting how Seattle offers both city and nature-oriented activities.
There’s a reason why Seattle is nicknamed the “Emerald City” – and no, it has nothing to do with The Wizard of Oz. Rather, the name comes directly from the year-round greenery that surrounds the destination.
Washington State’s largest city is hugged by Mother Nature’s assets – water, mountains and evergreen forests – and it’s close to thousands of acres of parkland.
Which is something Canadians, accustomed to embracing the great outdoors, can appreciate.
Last night’s gathering unfolded as Seattle’s Canadian arrivals, strengthened by new direct lift options, trend upwards.
In 2022, Seattle welcomed nearly 1.2 million Canadian visitors. For 2023, the city expects that number to hit 1.5 million, which is just below the 1.7-million mark Seattle recorded in 2019, pre-pandemic.
"Super, super fresh" seafood
Seattle’s futuristic Space Needle, a 605-ft-tall spire at the Seattle Center (a 1962 World’s Fair legacy), with an observation deck and rotating restaurant, is perhaps the city’s most recognizable landmark.
But the city is also home to iconic attractions, like Pike Place Market, Seattle's original farmers market, dating back to the early 1900s. Today, it is the centre of locally-sourced foods.
The open-air neighbourhood, named for its central street, Pike Place, is packed with craftspeople, merchants and market stalls where employees playfully throw fish to each other.
And, nearby, is the “Original Starbucks,” established in 1971 at Pike Place Market. It’s not unusual to see coffee lovers gathering in front of this iconic shop for a souvenir picture. Everything in the store is original, from the floors to the fixtures to the counters.
Pike Place is one of Seattle’s most popular attractions and tourists can elevate their market experience by taking a food tour, Shearer said.
“The seafood is going to be key,” she said, noting the halibut, tuna, salmon, and Dungeness crab that foodies will discover during a visit. “It’s super, super fresh.”
The same can said about Washington State’s agriculture scene, where farms produce fresh-grown items like asparagus, apples, and hops for beers.
The state is also the second-largest producer of wine in the U.S. (behind California), and last night, travel agents got to sample some of the region’s most popular bottles, such as a chardonnay from Chateau Ste. Michelle (one of Washington's oldest wineries).
Sporting events also drive a lot of visitors. “When the Blue Jays play the Mariners in Seattle, Canadians take over the city,” Shearer said.
“The facilities we have are really top-notch...and they all offer those game-day experiences.”
For example: fans can purchase add-ons to their game, such as visiting the field of a Seahawks football game to get a perspective from the 50-yard line.
Seattle’s three main stadiums are Lumen Field (where the Seahawks and Sounders, the city’s soccer team, play), T-Mobile Park (home to baseball’s Seattle Mariners) and Climate Pledge Arena (where the Kraken, Seattle’s hockey team, play).
This summer, on July 11, Seattle will host the 2023 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, “which we’re pretty stoked about,” Shearer said.
Then, in 2026, Seattle will host the FIFA World Cup when it comes to North America – an event that will not only be momentous for the city, but also for all of Washington State.
In the meantime, the city is investing in infrastructure upgrades, including a new pedestrian walkway – stretching nearly 20 blocks – that will better connect Pike Place Market with the waterfront, Shearer said.
Seattle, currently, has seven non-stop flights out of Canada. Air Canada, for one, offers direct lift out of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. WestJet also just announced a summer service out of Edmonton.
With Air Canada, a Toronto-Seattle route will fly twice a day starting May 1 for the shoulder and summer season.
The Montreal-Seattle seasonal route, which serves a heavy corporate crowd (Airbus, Bombardier and Rolls-Royce are all based in Montreal) launches May 15.
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