Seattle's homeless problem is becoming a problem for the tourism industry

SEATTLE, Wash. – When you look around Seattle, you can’t help but notice the homeless encampments on Interstate 5 in the Jungle or in parks and greens spaces throughout the city.  There’s a growing concern for the increasing homeless epidemic.  Now, it’s taking a toll on tourism dollars coming into the city.

“We actually came to catch a boat; a cruise boat to do the Inland Passage,” said tourist Beth.

Sherry and Beth traveled to Seattle from Missouri to take in the sights.

In their view is the chronic homeless problem.

“They look at some of the encampment as they’re coming off the freeway," said Visit Seattle President & CEO Tom Norwalk. "They experience some encampments around the city, in its parks, if it’s upper Pike.”

Or near the Space Needle where we ran into this pair.

“We have that problem back home, too, and it’s growing,” said Sherry.

And Ontario’s Matthew McAusland says he noticed the homeless problem, too.

“I used to live in Victoria for a number of years, and the homeless situation is similar to here,” said tourist Matthew McAusland.

It’s a problem plaguing many cities, but Visit Seattle President and CEO Tom Norwalk says it’s now targeting Seattle’s tourism industry.

“I think we run into some issues when we have convention planners come in to look at the city for a possible meeting coming up,” said Norwalk.

With public safety and tax dollars on the line, the city and King County brought in two consulting firms to figure out a plan. The passionate debate was sparking again at this week's city council meeting.  A sub-committee approved a plan that will allow homeless people 30 days to vacate encampments instead of 48 hours.

“We’re desperately afraid that some version of the city council ordinance that is being talked about in committee might actually pass,” said Norwalk.

In dollars and cents, Norwalk says conventions with millions of dollars in tourism are at stake.

“We’ve had conventions and delegates that have come that have said if we don’t get our act together, in essence, that they won’t come back to the city,” said Norwalk.

Norwalk says there’s a convention slated for May 2018 and organizers have already told Visit Seattle the homeless problem is a problem for them, too.  The proposal for the homeless encampments could be voted and approved as early as Monday.