Oregon coastal tourism is picking back up

Oregon coastal tourism is picking back up

Oregon_CoastThe Coast’s tourism industry is expected to be slightly better than last year.

“When you’re skimming along the bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up,” says Jeff Hampton, president and CEO of the Oregon Lodging Association.

But few expect tourism to rebound until 2012. “I wish I could be optimistic,” says John Hamilton, spokesman for the Oregon Restaurant Association.

The Coastal tourism industry shrank 4.8% from 2007 to 2009. In 2008 alone, revenue from coastal hotel occupancy shrank 7.8%, and Hamilton says restaurant revenues dropped 20% to 25% that year.

Consumer confidence and job insecurity are causing vacationers to take shorter trips to the Coast and spend less money on lodging, eating out and incidental expenses. Hampton says people’s expectations for lodging discounts and the way businesses package deals have changed, perhaps permanently. Once those expectations are formed, he says, it’s difficult to get back to rates favorable for business.

The first quarter of this year, Hamilton says, “is promising”; statewide restaurant revenues decreased by only 5% to 8% year over year (figures specific to the Coast are unavailable). According to Smith Travel Research reports released in February, occupancy in coastal hotels has increased 3.5% from last year.

Tourism will remain steady or improve if gas prices, jobs and consumer confidence improve. “We still think that people will plan to get out and travel,” Hampton says.

“If they know they’re going to have a job, they’re more willing to travel,” says Michelle Godfrey, spokeswoman for the Oregon Tourism Commission.

AMANDA WALDROUPE