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Record Travel Industry Growth on Oregon Coast Halted by COVID Shutdowns

Published 05/28/2020 at 1:54 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Record Travel Industry Growth on Oregon Coast Halted by COVID Shutdowns

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(Portland, Oregon) – This year's COVID pandemic shutdowns have hit the Oregon coast harder than most part of the state, especially considering its travel industry was experiencing a record growth rate for over a decade.

A study recently released by Dean Runyan Associates and Travel Oregon showed that Oregon had its tenth consecutive year of growth in travel-spending and visits in 2019, and by all accounts 2020 was going to be another banner year for the state and its coastline with yet another rise. This year’s pandemic brought all that to a screeching halt early in the year and the effects are wide-ranging: from massive layoffs of coastal hospitality workers to hotels and restaurants hanging on for dear life. The study, passed around by Travel Oregon, paints a complex picture.

While the Oregon coast has begun opening itself back up to visitors this week, there is significant damage done to the economy there and around the state. Travel Oregon believes the state’s travel industry will be a crucial factor in the economic recovery of Oregon.

Travel Oregon said the tourism industry here has shown steady growth since 2008, in terms of earnings and employment, ranking second after agriculture and food. In terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) the tourism industry is one of the three largest export-oriented industries in rural Oregon counties (the other two being agriculture/food processing and logging/wood products).

Direct travel spending around the state in 2019 was at $12.8 billion, a 3.6% increase over 2018. What 2020 would’ve looked like is anyone’s guess, but Travel Oregon says all numbers will be drastically different.

For the Oregon coast, travel spending was at $2 billion in 2019, a 3.6% increase over 2018. Travel-generated employment rose by 3.1% between 2018 and ‘19. Employee earnings were $723 million, a 7% increase from 2018.

On the north Oregon coast alone (Tillamook and Clatsop counties), travel spending in 2019 was at around $900 million. It was slightly less on the central coast, and on the southern Oregon coast spending that year was just over $400 million.

State unemployment statistics this month paint a bleak picture for the Oregon coast, however. About 15 percent of the work force on the northern half of the coast was affected by the shutdowns, with Lincoln County having the highest at 18 percent (according to unemployment insurance claims). Throughout the state, the hospitality and food service industries were hit the hardest, at almost a third of the state's claims. Much of that is the coast; most inland hotels – aside from the Columbia River Gorge – were not shut down.

“With the impact that COVID-19 is having on the travel and tourism industry, this year’s campaign looks to remind the country that even through the most difficult times, the spirit of travel cannot be broken,” said Travel Oregon in a press release. “When the time is right, the travel and tourism industry will be integral to our state’s and nation’s economic and collective recovery.”

Currently, as the coast begins opening up, most lodgings are not reporting an enormous rush of reservations yet. However, many already have most of summer booked up, such as A1 Vacation Rentals in Lincoln City. There, owner Karen Scrutton was sweating the shutdown as it continued in May. When word came recently that lodgings in Lincoln County would reopen on June 1 she breathed a major sigh of relief to Oregon Coast Beach Connection, saying she couldn’t imagine getting through the winter without some of summer’s major cash influx.

Coreen McKinney, owner of First Rise Baking Co. in Brookings on the southern Oregon coast, told Travel Oregon her concerns. Even that far south, the state’s economy is interconnected.

“Small businesses are the heart and soul of small communities,” she said. “When visitors come to our area and frequent our small businesses, we thrive.”

Over the holiday weekend, most towns noted not much activity, which they were thankful for as none wished to have the mass inundation that caused the crackdown on travel back in late March.

There remain mixed messages out there as well, with a travel ban still in place and many state parks on the northern half of the coast not open yet, but most beaches south of there are open and all lodgings will rebooting between now and June 5. Oregon Coast Hotels in this area - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours



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