Holiday Brings Mixed Economic Messages to Coast
Note: holiday lodging did suddenly get scarce. See the lodging availability update for openings
(Oregon Coast) – The weather reports say it's going to be warm, but what is typically one of the busiest weekends of the whole year on the Oregon coast wasn’t looking so hot earlier this week. Reservations were down at most lodgings, and as BeachConnection.net began research for its regular lodging availability updates, a horde of replies came back indicating copious openings – when there is usually just a few.
Economic factors were getting blamed. Lodgings were talking about slower numbers during the winter and spring, and reservations being down in general for high-density times like this weekend. But they were well aware of impending weather reports that were starting to announce stellar conditions, and they had a feeling things could turn around.
And then the story suddenly changed.
Michele Franck, at Oregon Beach Rentals in Depoe Bay, said things were looking quite slow and reservations were sizably down for Memorial Weekend. But on Thursday, the TV weathermen began shouting about the weather.
“It was bad until today,” Franck said on Thursday. “Good weather report and gorgeous days in town gave people encouragement to call. Numbers are good and calls are still coming in. People are certainly checking prices. But I am pleased with our reservations.”
Wendy Higgins, manager of Ocean Lodge in Cannon Beach, was worried for a while, as most people generally book well ahead of time for weekends like this.
“Reservations were slower coming in this year,” Higgins said. “A month ago, looking ahead, we were a bit concerned. People are waiting and not booking out as far. We are full on Friday and only have a couple rooms left on Saturday and Sunday.”
In Pacific City, Nicole Twigg, of Kiwanda Coastal Properties, echoed what most lodgings were saying: they’re filling up, if not already filled up now with plenty of last minute calls.
“I think people are not planning as far ahead as they have in previous years,” Twigg said. “We are getting a lot of last minute calls from people asking for discounts. It seems people are just choosier where and when they are going to spend. We still have about 20 percent availability, where in previous years we would be filled up.”
No one seems to be hurting for filled rooms, but many are down a little.
Like The Inn at Seaside’s Kristine Gottsch, who noticed a drop. “Last year, The Inn at Seaside was sold out two weeks in advance of Memorial weekend,” Gottsch said. “This year, we only had ten rooms booked in advance. We are down ten percent on Friday night from last year.”
She noticed some other interesting trends.
“Last year, guests booked more two-night stays and three-night stays,” Gottsch said. “This year, fewer guests are booking two-night stays. Callers are shopping our rates and saying, ‘We’ll call you back.’ Some callers say, ‘Is this really the best price you can give me?' "
Gottsch and several other lodgings on the coast have noted that tourists seem to want more kitchenette rooms so they can prepare their meals instead of going out to eat. It’s a sure sign many visitors are cutting back on something, even if they’re not axing their coastal trips altogether.
Oregon coast restaurants are somewhat on edge as well. It’s been extremely slow during the winter and spring for most. This often means depending on the summer season to erase the debts incurred during the rest of this past year. If they’re unable to pay off their debts completely during summer’s typical crazed conditions and set something aside for the winter, the winter of 2010 looks bleak for many eateries.
Sporting a good price seems to be a major key with lots of lodgings. Gottsch said the The Inn at Seaside dropped its prices a bit. This year, room prices there are down about $30 compared to last year.
Whale Point Resort in Depoe Bay kept their prices low in winter and even dropped them a little. Manager Patt Dardis said that kept them more than slightly afloat over the tides of this rough coastal winter. Business for them is up a little for the year.
Donna Weiss, of Weiss’ Paradise Suites, said she was down a bit for this holiday and the summer in general, but she’s hopeful. Again, the enticing price aspect came into play.
“Summer reservations seem to be coming in slow, but better than I thought,” Weiss said. “We are ahead a little over last year for January through now, so that is good. I think things will be a little better than last year for this summer. But it will take more work to book and maybe more special discounted rates.”
Other firms, like Oregon Beach Vacations, are up for the year and for the weekend, said co-owner David McElveen. The agency has rentals in just about every city on the 180-mile range of the coast’s upper half, and expanded their rental pool from around 100 to 260 in the last two years. Revenues are up there, McElveen said, while there are more openings than last year’s Memorial Weekend (something that can be explained by the fact they simply have more homes in their pool).
At Cannon Beach Vacation Rentals, the news is good there, showing more hope for a coastal tourism economy that’s a bit nervous about the coming summer.
“We have actually seen an increase in reservations this weekend over last year,” said manager Brian Olson. “We saw a lot of last-minute reservations due to our offering a special 'rent two and get the third night free.' While we still have limited availability, we are pleased with this weekend.”