The number of visitors staying in a hotel or rental home on the Oregon Coast dipped slightly last year, but overall spending grew to nearly $2 billion.
Many hotel operators have not felt the slight decline, however, and say that 2017 was an exceptionally good year, in part because of higher room and transportation costs and travelers who are choosing to stay longer, The Daily Astorian reported, based on the findings of the 2018 Oregon Travel Impact study.
The report shows tourism spending has increased 2.2 percent overall, while bookings for hotels and rentals dropped 1.3 percent overall between 2016 and 2017. The decline on the northern coast was 1.7 percent.
The pattern contrasts with the state overall, where visitor volume increased by 2.2 percent, according to the study by Dean Runyan Associates.
Flattening visitor volume should not be seen as an issue for the tourism industry, said Leon Aliski, the company’s project manager.
On the North Coast alone, visitor spending on accommodations increased from $190 million to $197 million in one year, and overall room rates increased by 4.4 percent last year.
“If they are spending more because a room costs more and gas costs more, and maybe they are spending more on restaurants, then you can have more spending without actually having more people there,” Aliski said.
Ideally, the industry would seek higher occupancy and growth in room rates simultaneously, Aliski said, but seasonal dips on the coast make this a challenge.
Higher rates for hotel rooms could be having a discouraging effect for some visitors, said Marcus Hinz of the Oregon Coast Visitors Association. But part of the stagnation may just be a sign new lodging is not being built to match growth, with many small towns, like Cannon Beach, already built out.
“When you look at the coast’s rate compared with the rate of growth in Portland, one might think we’re not doing well,” Hinz said. “But Portland is building new hotels left and right; they have more rooms online to be booked, which would add to a rate of growth. On the Oregon Coast, I can only name one new property to come online in the last year.”
Day-trippers contribute to general tourism growth but are not accounted for when looking at room nights, Hinz also noted.
Travel Oregon and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association are working to attract more overnight visitors to the coast in the offseason.
The growth in spending suggests the visitors who are here are destination travelers, who often travel in large groups, for longer periods of time and spend more on accommodations and local businesses during their stays, said Linea Gagliano, communications director for Travel Oregon.
The coast has also seen international visitors increase by 5.9 percent in recent years — another group that tends to stay longer and spend more.
“What matters to us is that businesses are getting visitor spending, and we are seeing that,” Gagliano said.