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Munich on the Willamette

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

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STATEWIDE Gunther Hoffmann knows at least one reason why German tourists are expected to flock to Oregon this summer: “Germans are entranced with the West and Indians,” says Hoffmann, head of the German Consulate in Portland.

The influx of Germans also is the result of a devalued dollar boosting the euro and aggressive marketing of Oregon in Europe as a premier tourist destination, say industry experts. German tour operators expect 400% growth in sales of Oregon travel packages, says Teresa O’Neil, director of sales and marketing at Travel Oregon, the state’s official tourism marketing organization. “We’re a bargain to them,” she says.

Germans are attracted to Oregon’s green initiatives, such as Portland’s mass transit system and TriMet line to the airport, and like Munich, Portland is internationally known for its beer. “We call it Munich on the Willamette,” O’Neil says. It also helps that Germans typically receive up to six weeks of vacation annually, Hoffmann says.

O’Neil also promotes Oregon at the annual March tourism convention in Berlin. She says one German tour agency she works with has seen a 160% increase in sales of Oregon tour packages. Lufthansa, the German-based airline that added a direct flight between PDX and Frankfurt five years ago, says the number of leisure travelers using the route is significantly up from this time last year. The airline doesn’t release exact figures.

Guest ranches in Oregon that are popular with Europeans, especially Germans, are seeing increased reservations for this summer. Eva Gill, part owner of Rock Springs Dude Ranch in Bend, says 21.5% of her booked clients this year are Europeans, a 13.5% increase from 2007. Long Hollow Ranch in Central Oregon says reservations are down, but one bright spot has been an increase in European clients.

German tourists are a windfall for local hotels, too.

At Portland-based Provenance Hotels, domestic business is down but international bookings are up 19% through April from the same time last year. Of that, 65% are Germans and Dutch, says chief operating officer Howard Jacobs. Speak German? If so, the hotels are hiring, Jacobs says.

The Heathman Hotel in Portland is seeing a similar trend. In response, the hotel has added more foreign language television stations, says general manager Chris Erickson.

“Right now Oregon has a blue light on top of it,” he says. “And it is shouting blue-light special.”                      

JASON SHUFFLER



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