During cruise ship season, tourists disembark and pour into downtown.
For small businesses like mine, it’s thrilling to see these visitors return and fan out throughout the city. Even our West Seattle location gets a rush. According to data from the Port of Seattle, it is projected that 1.5 million passengers will embark on a cruise from Seattle in 2023, generating $900 million in annual revenue and employment opportunities for 5,500 residents.
As the cruise ship season starts to wind down in the fall, private and public sector workers can help downtown continue to bounce back by joining their colleagues in the office. As a Seattle resident, parent and business owner, I know that returning to the workplace and embracing a flexible, hybrid work schedule is good for the community and critically important for our downtown’s future.
There is a role for our civic leaders to address public safety, but there is a single collective thing employers can do – and that is return to downtown. There was a time I paid for rideshares for my employees to get home. Waiting for and riding public transportation was not safe without enough people around. My workforce and I feel safer commuting in large part due to companies like Amazon bringing their employees back to their offices.
As a business owner with a workforce who can’t work remotely, I know that it’s important to listen to my employees’ needs and balance those with the needs of the business. Small, medium, and large companies are figuring out this balance and considering what they’ve learned. A May 2023 survey of Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce members showed how this flexibility is showing up locally. The typical in-office workweek has become a Tuesday-through-Thursday, morning-to-afternoon hybrid approach for many of our customers. That flexibility is the smart, people-positive business choice for employers who have employees who can sometimes do their job remotely.
I understand the persistent barriers people face. The office is not as convenient as working from home, it takes too much time to get to the office, parents lose time with their children, offices are loud and finding reliable, affordable childcare is a challenge. Some days, I just want to stay home with my kids and feel the mom guilt.
The opportunity costs are valid, but there isn’t enough discussion or understanding about what we collectively lose when office workers, tourists, and everyday visitors stay home, and the importance of businesses balancing flexibility with the need to have in-person collaboration to stay competitive. At our Marination location downtown, we are encouraged to see more large-ticket ordering for groups and teams, demonstrating some of the collaboration and team building underway. As each large order comes through the system, my team and I let out a big mahalo.
It warms my heart to see the uptick in foot traffic and downtown come back to life – more smiles, more laughter and more luau plates for the hungry, hard-working people in this city. As more customers come through our doors, I can hire more people, add more shifts and provide more tax revenue to the city to fund essential services. I go home and hug my kids, grateful that my time away from them contributed to the community in a positive way. I see the same in my customers, most of whom are doing a remarkable job adjusting to the new hybrid ways of working.
Seattle is at a critical turning point. I represent a business that benefits from more activity downtown. I also have businesses in other parts of the city and know that a vibrant downtown is essential to the overall health of our region. We need a downtown that welcomes families and provides inspiration for the generation we are raising.
We all play a role.