Vancouver, WA Tourism

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Vancouver, WA Tourism: Top Attractions

Some top attractions, after Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and Esther Short Park, include; Waterfront Renaissance Trail, Vancouver Farmers Market — Downtown Market, Officers' Row, Pearson Field and Pearson Air Museum, Vancouver Lake Park, George C. Marshall House, Ulysses S. Grant House, Vancouver Land Bridge, Frenchmans Bar Regional Park, and Vancouver Waterfront.


  • The Waterfront Renaissance Trail in Vancouver is a fourteen-foot-wide "concrete path stretching along the Columbia River shoreline and starts at Vancouver Landing" and ends at Wintler Park.
  • The Vancouver Farmers Market — Downtown Market is a market with several vendors selling fresh and local produce, flowers, plants, baked goods, delicious food, pet treats, and accessories for the home.
  • The Officers' Row is residence to 21 beautifully restored homes, formerly built for U.S. military officers stationed at the Vancouver Barracks in Vancouver, Washington in the mid-to-late 1800s.
  • The Pearson Air Museum, located at Pearson Field, is a place-based museum that "focuses on the period from 1905 through World War II when Pearson Field was the site of many aviation firsts."
  • The Vancouver Lake Park is a 234-acre regional park that "stretches for 2.5 miles along the west shore of Vancouver Lake and is great for kayaking, canoeing, and hosts many colleges and rowing (sculling) competitions during the year."
  • The George C. Marshall House was once occupied by General George Catlett Marshall, between 1880-1959. Today it serves as a national historic landmark and historic house museum in Vancouver.
  • The Ulysses S. Grant House was the "first building erected on military property after the arrival of the US Army in 1849," and today visitors are welcomed inside the historic home, which acts as an eatery.
  • The Vancouver Land Bridge is a historic site that "reconnects the Fort Vancouver National Historic Reserve to the Columbia River over the six-lane State Highway 14 in Vancouver, Wash."
  • The Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park is a 120-acre regional park dedicated in 1997 and features a wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities.
  • The Vancouver Waterfront is a 32-acre "high density, mixed-use urban development" with various amenities including benches, open lawn areas, playground, restrooms, walking paths, and water feature/fountain.


The research team searched through industry-related databases such as Tourism Vancouver, and credible media sites like CBC News, for a ranking of the top tourist attractions based on the number of visitors annually. Although statistics are available for the city's tourism industry, including the top five visitor markets, the annual number of tourists, and the value of the industry, there appears to be a lack of studies ranking the top attractions by the number of visitors.

Since TripAdvisor surveys millions of travelers each year for their favorite destinations, hotels, and attractions worldwide, the team used its findings — dubbed, "Top Attractions in Vancouver," to triangulate the top attractions by considering the number of visitors reviews.
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Vancouver, WA Tourism: Trends

Four current/future trends in Vancouver (Washington) tourism are business travel, the Waterfront development, satellite winery tasting rooms, and Vancouver's rise to becoming a standalone destination.

Current & Future Tourism Trends in Vancouver, Washington

1. The Ever-Popular Waterfront Development

  • Based on the information we read, it appears that the top current/future trend in Vancouver tourism involves the city's extremely popular Waterfront development situated along the Columbia River.
  • Vancouver's Waterfront development is a current/future tourism trend because it was described as such by at least three reputable sources (Visit Vancouver USA, Vancouver Business Journal, and The Columbian) and due to its success/popularity.
  • The Waterfront just recently opened in the fourth quarter of 2018.
  • A 2019 article published by the Vancouver Business Journal described the Waterfront as "a catalyst for the market like no other."
  • The Marketing Director for Visit Vancouver USA, Michelle McKenzie, attributed Vancouver's tourism "mojo . . . to the Waterfront development." McKenzie didn't mince words in describing just how strong of a trend Vancouver's Waterfront development is, as she stated that it's "the hook that lures people over to Vancouver."
  • McKenzie expects the Waterfront tourism trend to continue to grow even more, as she stated that "[t]he Waterfront is only going to be more popular."
  • The Visit Vancouver USA tourism website commented on the future of the Waterfront trend in stating that "[t]he waterfront will continue growing."
  • Businesses illustrating this trend (by maintaining office space on the Waterfront) include Hotel Indigo (which will be Vancouver's "first boutique hotel" with an early 2020 projected open date), Barlow's Public House, and Pizzeria Sul Lago. The developer of Hotel Indigo expects that when the hotel opens, it will "be a smashing success."
  • Visit Vancouver's CEO commented on the success of the Waterfront for tourism in stating that "the feedback and interest has been outstanding."

2. Business Travel

  • A current/future tourism trend for Vancouver is the area's strong market for business travel.
  • A factor driving this trend is the number of large companies that have relocated and will relocate their headquarters to Vancouver. Companies that have already relocated to Vancouver are PeaceHealth and Banfield.
  • A company that will be relocating to Vancouver is Home Depot, which is projected to have its Vancouver headquarters finished in 2019 or 2020.
  • A 2019 projection for Vancouver discussed that tech companies are also very interested in moving their businesses to Vancouver. In fact, the Columbia River Economic Development Council has been working to attract companies in five areas, three of which are tech-specific (clean tech, electronics/computer, and software).
  • As a further demonstration of Vancouver's strong market for business tourism, there are over 80 meeting venues in the city.
  • This business tourism trend comes on the heels of a semi-recent downturn in business tourism in the area (2015/2016) when the Red Lion Inn closed and some companies stopped booking meetings/conventions in Vancouver due to concerns about whether there were enough hotel rooms available.

3. Satellite Winery Tasting Rooms

  • Satellite winery tasting rooms constitute another current/future trend for Vancouver tourism.
  • This is considered a trend because it was described as such by at least two reputable sources (The Columbian and Vancouver Businsess Journal).
  • According to a 2019 article published by The Columbian, there are now five wineries situated on Vancouver's Waterfront development.
  • Even wineries from outside the Vancouver area have been moving into the Vancouver market. Two such wineries are SuLei Cellars and Maryhill Winery, which "open[ed] new satellite tasting rooms."
  • Examples of businesses (wineries) illustrating this trend include Brian Carter Cellars, Maryhill Winery, Amavi Cellars, and Pepper Bridge Winery.

4. Vancouver as a Standalone Destination

  • A fourth current/future Vancouver tourism trend involves the city's rise to establishing itself as a standalone tourism destination.
  • According to the Vancouver Business Journal, "[a]nother new trend in Vancouver hotel/tourism is that the city is no longer just the overflow for Portland, situated just across the Columbia River. Vancouver is doing well enough on its own."
  • According to Explore Washington State, Vancouver has grown "[i]n recent years . . . from a sleepy, smaller town to a destination in its own right."
  • This is a trend because it was described as such by two reputable sources (Explore Washington State and the Vancouver Business Journal).
  • Businesses illustrating this trend include Rally Pizza, Twigs Bistro, and Daily Catch, all of which were spots featured by Visit Vancouver USA.

Research Strategy

We identified the four trends above by reviewing a combination of travel sources and media articles about tourism in Vancouver, Washington. The main travel source we consulted was Visit Vancouver USA. Some articles we utilized were published by media sources that included The Columbian and the Vancouver Business Journal. We categorized each of these trends as combination current/future trends because they all apply to both the present and future. For example, the business travel trend is already strong and is projected to become even stronger in the future. Together, these sources provided us with all the information we needed to identify four current/future trends for Vancouver tourism, along with supporting information about them.
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Vancouver, WA Tourism: Demographics

A robust demographic profile of tourists visiting Vancouver, Washington could not be provided given the lack of information on the subject. Recently published sources only suggest that a significant fraction of tourists visiting Vancouver come from nearby Portland, and that the city also attracts visitors from other parts of the region. Old sources indicate that visitors to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, one of the top attractions in the city, were mostly traveling with family, young, female, employed, well-educated, and from the Vancouver-Portland metropolitan area.


  • The new Vancouver Waterfront, one of the attractions in Vancouver, Washington, is attracting a diverse group of people. Travel writers note that, at the new attraction, they are seeing kids having fun in the sand, cyclists taking a breather, and business people staying for happy hour. They are also seeing young families, retired locals, couples having dinner dates, and athletic dog owners.
  • According to Erica Thompson, Visit Vancouver USA's communications manager, the new Vancouver Waterfront is not only capturing the attention of visitors and locals alike but is also attracting meeting planners, regional travelers, and "neighbors south of the river in Portland."
  • In 2018, there were 1,108,907 people who visited Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, one of the attractions in Vancouver, Washington. Of these visitors, 22,103 were local students going on educational trips.
  • According to Tracy Fortmann, superintendent at Fort Vancouver, the number of Vancouver and Portland locals visiting Fort Vancouver and using the site as a casual gathering spot has grown over the years. Fort Vancouver is an urban national park that is only 15 minutes away from the Portland International Airport.
  • Fortmann says Fort Vancouver, being one of the most well-known forts in the region and country, "brings in people from not just the community that [is] enjoying it, but the region, nationally and internationally."
  • Vancouver, Washington is the top hub for hipsters in the United States, according to moving service provider MoveHub. It took the top spot because of its wide selection of thrift stores, vegan restaurants, tattoo parlors, and microbreweries.
  • For inter-state tourism, the State of Washington targets Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Texas. For inter-country tourism, it targets the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, China, and Germany. These targets were selected because studies show that people in these locations more or less behave the same way as people in the State of Washington. People in these locations are likely to be interested in the tourism assets of the state.



We employed various strategies in determining the demographic profile of tourists visiting Vancouver, Washington. Since Visit Vancouver USA is the destination marketing organization (DMO) responsible for promoting the city as an attractive travel destination, we started our research by scouring the organization's website and annual report for information about visitors or tourists, and by reviewing press coverage of the destination, the organization, and the organization's marketing campaigns. Articles published by Vancouver Business Journal and Visit Vancouver USA were among the sources we consulted. As the city's DMO, Visit Vancouver USA must have a strong understanding of who visits the city, and it may have shared some details about visitor demographics with news outlets. This initial strategy, however, yielded very limited information, and we only learned the types of people that the new Vancouver Waterfront is attracting. There was some information about the organization's new marketing campaign "Yeah, that Vancouver," but the information does not offer any insight into the target market or the demographic profile of visitors.

To find additional information, we changed tactics and looked at the demographics of tourists visiting the top attractions in Vancouver, Washington. It was identified in a related request that the top attractions in the city are Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Esther Short Park, Waterfront Renaissance Trail, Vancouver Farmers Market, Officer's Row, Pearson Field and Pearson Air Museum, Vancouver Lake Park, George C. Marshall House, Ulysses S. Grant House, Vancouver Land Bridge, Frenchmans Bar Regional Park, and Vancouver Waterfront, so we checked if the demographic profile of visitors to any of these attractions is readily available in the public domain. The National Park Service publishes visitor studies for some of its parks, but unfortunately, no recent study was published for Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, and the last visitor study was published way back in 1986. This old visitor study provides the demographic profile of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site visitors that year.

Most of the relevant information we found with this strategy was about Fort Vancouver National Historic Site visitors. We were unable to find the demographic profile of visitors to the other top attractions. It appears Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is the city's top draw, as it attracts over a million visitors per year, so the lack of information on the other attractions' visitors may have something to do with this. Additional information about Fort Vancouver National Historic Site was gathered from the site's annual report and from articles published by The Oregonian and Oregon Public Broadcasting. Columbia River Renaissance Trail, another attraction in Vancouver, is not among the aforementioned top attractions, but the demographic profile of its users in 2010 is publicly available.

Since the amount of information we were able to gather was limited, we tried researching the demographic profile of visitors to the broader Clark County and Washington. This led us to Washington's state tourism marketing plan, which provides some demographic details. As suggested, we also examined the web traffic of Visit Vancouver USA and the aforementioned top attractions using SimilarWeb. This last strategy proved ineffective because most of the attractions do not have their own websites, and those that have their own websites do not have enough web traffic for SimilarWeb to analyze. As can be seen in the attached Google document, Visit Vancouver USA, Vancouver Farmers Market, Clark County Historical Museum, George C. Marshall House, Ulysses S. Grant House, and Vancouver Waterfront have their own websites, but they do not have sufficient web traffic for SimilarWeb to analyze.