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On the Scene: Tourism recovering in Portland

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On the Scene
Friday, February 18, 2011
By Emma Hall

Travel Portland President and CEO Jeff Miller presented his annual State of the Industry talk over breakfast on February 17 at the Doubletree Hotel in Portland. Spirits were high as Miller provided a bright outlook for the industry that finally began to recover in 2010 after suffering during the economic downturn.

Tourism and hospitality is the largest traded sector in Oregon, responsible for bringing new money into the state. Visitors, whether they are international or from nearby Seattle (as the imaginary couple that illustrated Miller's points in video clips were), spend money each day that goes directly into the local economy. International visitors are especially lucrative, as they stay longer and spend more. Visitors from Canada tend to spend $182 per visitor each day. Tourists from some of Portland's other top markets spend even more: that number goes up to $392/day from Japanese tourists, and $480/day from Chinese.

Miller gave a "follow-the-money" presentation and encouraged industry professionals to think broadly about where tourism money goes. Tourists spent $3.6 billion in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties in 2010, and not all of that went just to hotels and restaurants. The 9.2% increase from 2009 also went to galleries, transportation, retail and more. For example, Froelick Gallery in NW Portland estimates that 40% of their business comes from out-of-town visitors. Tourism also accounted for 29,000 jobs in Oregon, up .7% from the previous year.

The jobs that tourism dollars affect are broader than just hotel workers or restaurant chefs. Miller explained that the $607 million spent on food by visitors in 2010 also benefitted vintners, farmers, and fishermen throughout the state. "Tourism supports a lot of jobs, and a lot of jobs behind the scenes," Miller said.

However, it is not just Portland that is making the hospitality and tourism sector grow in Oregon. 2011 is looking good for the industry all over the state. Over 2 million people visit Bend each year, generating over $570 million for Central Oregon, according to Visit Bend. Last year's statewide tourism impacts won't be known until March, but the industry accounted for $7.7 billion and 128,000 direct and indirect jobs in 2009, according to Travel Oregon.

With 2010's numbers showing such great improvements, industry professionals are optimistic about 2011. "I'm just happy to wake up in the morning and have it be 2011, not 2010 or 2009," said Steve Faulstick, General Manager of Doubletree Hotel Portland.

Emma Hall is web editor for Oregon Business.

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