Coast attractions hope for better summer

| Print |  Email
The Latest
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

 

BY COREY PAUL

The recession took away business just when Newport’s Oregon Coast Aquarium needed it most. The nonprofit had progressed toward the black after a more than a decade of financial trouble, only to find itself defaulting on its debt at the end of a rough 2010 tourism season, then cutting its budget and staff.

But an anticipated increase in attendance this summer could bring a change in tide for the aquarium and for other Oregon attractions that have struggled through the weakened economy.

The Oregon Coast Visitors Association, which promotes tourism, says attractions' performances varied during the recession. But director Rebecca Lutz, says "everybody has felt the pinch."

Coastal lodging revenues indicate a drop in traffic from 2008 to 2009, then recovery through 2010, says Brett Quick, whose Quick's Bookkeeping Services contracts with coastal organizations, including the visitor's association.

But more traffic doesn't mean better revenue for coastal attractions. For travelers with tighter budgets, lodging comes first over spending money on souvenirs or admission fees. Last year, the Oregon aquarium saw a 32,000-person drop in attendance.

While coastal attractions nationally, such as zoos, actually saw attendance recover slightly in 2010, aquarium attendance dropped 5.4%, according to the Morey Group, a national trade organization that tracks cultural attractions. Aquariums tend to cost more to visit than the other attraction.

After the recession was in full swing in 2008, consumers opted for regional travel. Local attractions were popular staycation spots, which would explain the aquarium's relatively normal 2009 season. The plummet in 2010 occurred as people avoided repeats of summer activities.

Aquarium CFO Rick Goulette also pointed to location as one of the causes of its financial woes, along with high unemployment and spiking gas prices.

John Morey says the Oregon Coast Aquarium is hurt by its distance from a metro area."It would be much more impacted than some of the other locations," he says. "Almost three hours is not close. That's still an overnight trip."

And it's true the aquarium's past sets it apart from the other attractions. When Keiko left aquarium in 1998, the orca that starred in "Free Willy" took a large number of attendees with her. Then an expansion proved too costly, made worse by a scandal after the organiztions’s former president took on $2 million in bank loan debt without the board’s approval. She plead guilty to forgery charges.  Bonds were issued in 2005 to finance recovery, but last year's low attendance lead to default.

No payments due to bondholders have been missed, and their response reflects some optimism: A forbearance request, made short-term to catch up on payments. Then a 12-month holiday on debt payments the aquarium says its on track to resume in December

There’s encouragement. The state and national economies are growing. “And we had a good spring break," said aquarium CEO Carrie Lewis. Attendance was up 1,000 over last year. "We had a very good spring break."

Corey Paul is a contributor to Oregon Business.

 

More Articles

Healthcare Perspective

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Majd El-Azma, president and CEO of LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon, followed by the Healthcare Powerlist.


Read more...

Three problems with Obama's immigration order

News
Wednesday, November 26, 2014

BY NISHANT BHAJARIA | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR112614-immigration-thumb

By now, anyone who knows about it has a position on President Obama’s executive order on immigration. The executive order is the outcome of failed attempts at getting a bill through the normal legislative process. Both Obama and his predecessor came close, but not close enough since the process broke down multiple times.


Read more...

Tackling the CEO-worker pay gap

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014
BY OREGON BUSINESS STAFF

An SEC rule targets the disparity between executive and employee compensation, reigniting a long-standing debate about corporate social responsibility.


Read more...

OB Poll: Wineries and groceries

News
Friday, October 24, 2014

24-winethumbA majority of respondents agreed: Local vineyards should remain Oregon-owned and quality is the most important factor when determining where to eat or buy groceries.


Read more...

The short list: 5 companies making a mint off kale

The Latest
Thursday, November 20, 2014
kale-thumbnailBY OB STAFF

Farmers, grocery stores and food processors cash in on kale.


Read more...

Corner Office: Sheree Arntson

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Checking in with the managing director of Arnerich Massena.


Read more...

The short list: Holiday habits of six Oregon CEOs

The Latest
Thursday, December 11, 2014
121214-xmaslist1BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

We ask business and nonprofit leaders how they survive the season.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS