Great Oregon Coast Weather, Hazy Economic News
(Oregon Coast) – Last week's wild run of low tide events and this week's stunning weather seem to have made a surge in visitors, but it may only have made tourism numbers even with last year at this time. Some aren't experiencing a boost at all, and some are noticing more guests - but the analysis is a bit more complex.
Still, there’s a hopeful, optimistic mood emerging among coastal tourism insiders.
In most years, summer season on the coast doesn’t really start until the last week of June, sometimes not even until around July 4. Between then and early September is when coastal businesses make the bulk of their money. They’re dependent on good weather, or at least not terrible conditions, to get the tourists out and fill the restaurants, shops and keep the no vacancy signs up.
In most cases, business has been hit by these economic conditions throughout the year, making the lean months even leaner. So everyone along the beaches who owns a biz had kept their fingers crossed for a decent summer – not like last year’s horrific June, when big rains kept tourists away through all the month and really slowed summer down.
“All we need is really good summer weather on the coast and everyone will be happy,” said Donna Weiss, owner of Weiss’ Paradise Suites in Seaside. “If it is hot inland, then people swarm to the beach.”
That wish for decent June weather has come true, and some thought they might see a little early bump in their cash registers thanks to hordes of visitors who checked out the well-publicized extreme low tides of mid-June. But that didn’t necessarily translate into better numbers for everyone.
At Oregon Beach House Rentals in Depoe Bay, Michele Franck noticed more people on the beaches, but it looked like they were mostly day-trippers. This weekend was good, however.
“The beach is crowded, the streets are jammed and the houses are packed,” Franck said of this weekend. “A lot of what I hear speaks to one-day trips, one overnight stays - much shorter stays. Overall our numbers are down for May, June and July for current reservations.”
Mike Exinger, of Zinger’s Ice Cream in Seaside, said he’s actually up a little – about five percent. But being in the ice cream biz means you’re dependent on the sun, and recent drizzle days saw a drop in action for him.
“It’s been about the same as far as visitors in town, but it seems like it’s either real busy or real slow,” Exinger said. “Some of the events have been on different weekends - conventions and such. And there’s a little different feel to the flow of things, with the fourth of July on a Saturday. Well, once we get through that, I think summer will really take off.
“I still see some visitors come for the day with a picnic lunch or they bring sandwiches. So even though they’re coming to play, it doesn’t necessarily translate into them spending money while they’re here. But we can’t complain.”
Brian Hines, owner of Manzanita’s San Dune Inn, saw some decent turnouts. But it may just be evening out the effects of a bad economy.
“Summer started about the usual time around 15th to 20th of June,” Hines said. “A good surge, but nothing out of the ordinary for this time of year. Revenues for June will be about the same as last year.
“Hopefully if all is o.k., we will end up staying down about seven percent for the year. I had projected being down 15-20 percent at the beginning of the year, so that’s a plus.”
Dan Arb at Harbor at Depoe Bay said things have been slower at his set of condos, although the numbers at a glance look deceptively ok.
"May was up one percent from ‘08, but down from the five previous Mays,” Arb said. “Remember, last spring was slow also if you’re comparing May or June to last year.”
Others have reported being up for the whole year, such as Oregon Beach Vacations (with offices in Lincoln City and Cannon Beach) and Cannon Beach Vacation Rentals.
Nicole Hamic, of Nehalem River Inn and Restaurant near Manzanita, didn’t think there has been any surge lately at all, although she says things are at least steady at their upscale lodging and restaurant.
“There has seemed to be a fair number of people with children in town, but that doesn't affect our business,” she said.
For her, summer did not start yet.
“Historically the last week of June is better than it is shaping up to be,” Hamic said. “I think that the economy does still have a pretty decent hold on everyone. In the past, our nicest rooms have booked first, and this year our least expensive rooms are booking up first and our nicer rooms are vacant or booking last. Also the restaurant is really being slow to pick up business this year.”
That sentiment – of offering deals, incentives or folks going the less expensive route – is a theme among many coastal businesses. Like Whale Pointe Resort in Depoe Bay, which rolled back its prices during the winter and offered more specials.
“The economy is still bad, but some people who before would have booked a week are looking more for three to five nights,” said Weiss. “I have been giving great discounts for five- to seven-night stays. Reservations are coming in, so all in all, I am still optimistic.”
Many lodgings and even more restaurants depend on big profits during the summer to keep themselves afloat for the rest of the year, and then often have to borrow some during the winter months.
“We are in debt a little more than usual from winter and spring,” Hines said. “So hopefully things will stay on an even keel for summer so we can pay the debts off and start borrowing again in the new cycle starting around November.
“The crowds are good. But there is still this undercurrent in my mind that the fall in economy has slowed down but not stabilized yet. I expect summer to be around normal and won't really be able to get a real sense of any turnaround in the economy, for us at least, until the fall months.”
“It feels like people have some money in the bank now,” Weller said. “Even if it's just a little - it seems to be enough to put a smile on their face.”
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