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Visitors hit attractions

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Many of Oregon’s top attractions have seen their visitor numbers increase over the last year despite the bad economy.

One bright spot is the High Desert Museum near Bend, which saw a 14% increase in attendance from July 2008 to July 2009.

“We are thrilled to see that, especially in today’s economy,” says museum president Janeanne A. Upp. But attendance increased only 6.5% from July to October this year, compared to the same period last year. “There are still winter break and the ski season to factor in,” says spokeswoman Cathy Carroll.

The museum gets 48% of its revenue from visitors, education programs, café and store sales, and facility rentals. Upp makes the most of her $3.5 million budget by changing exhibits nine times a year and marketing the museum in print and broadcast outlets. And with the closing of Bend’s Working Wonders Children’s Museum in October, attendance could increase even more. Upp says her museum will honor passes held by patrons of the closed institution.

OMSI in Portland reports a 10% increase for summer attendance but with no increase in revenue. “This is likely due to an increase in member attendance, which would not generate revenue each visit,” says communications director Lee Dawson.

The Oregon Zoo’s attendance grew 8.1% to 1.6 million visitors over the past year, which smashed all previous records. Spokeswoman Linda D’Ae-Smith says local residents are starting to rediscover the zoo. “People are looking for something closer to home,” she says. “They’re not taking that trip to Disneyland.”

The Enchanted Forest outside of Salem, the Tillamook Cheese Factory, the Oregon Caves National Monument near Cave Junction, and Crater Lake also reported an increase in visitors, but Multnomah Falls Lodge and McMinnville’s Evergreen Aviation Museum report no change. The same goes for the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, says store manager Blue Anderson. However, she says sales at the museum store have increased.

One exception is the Portland Art Museum, which saw a 20% decrease in visitors from July 2008 to July 2009. But marketing director Beth A. Heinrich says there’s a silver lining. The museum projected 30,000 visitors for July and August, but beat that number by about 54%.

WILLIAM E. CRAWFORD
 

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