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Foreign visitors to Washington, Seattle jump more than 30 percent

Shawn McClung
New air routes from Seattle to Iceland and Asia have helped increase the percentage of visitors from overseas to Washington state and Seattle by more than 30 percent.

New air services connecting Seattle to Iceland and Asia have helped Washington state lead the nation in attracting visitors from overseas, according to the U.S. Commerce Department and Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tying with Nevada for the highest percentage growth in foreign visitors from 2009 to 2010, Washington state visits increased by 32 percent compared with an 11-percent growth nationally.

Among top U.S. cities, Seattle and Los Angeles led with a 33-percent increase in attracting foreign visitors. Other cities with double-digit increases were Las Vegas with 31 percent; Atlanta, 25 percent, and San Diego, 24 percent.

New routes from SeaTac Airport to Reykjavik, Beijing and Osaka, Japan, were established by Icelandair, Hainan Airlines and Delta Air Lines in the past two years. Next month, the Seattle visitors bureau reported, German carrier Condor will add round trips between Seattle and Frankfurt.

"This latest data underscores the continued popularity of Seattle and Washington state as destinations for global visitors," the visitors bureau's president, Tom Norwalk, said in a press release. "However, as we've learned during the past three years and from the events of 9/11 a decade ago, travel is fragile."

Consequently, Norwalk said the visitors bureau, the Port of Seattle and the newly formed Washington Tourism Alliance will continue working together to shore up travel from overseas.