Hotel occupancy in Bend in July

2014-2015: 86.5 percent

2015-2016: 90.4 percent

2016-2017: 88.8 percent

2017-2018: 88.2 percent

2018-2019: 83.4 percent

Source: STR Global, visitor industry analytics

Fewer visitors came to Bend in July, but spent more on rooms, compared with the year before, signaling what some hotel operators say is a plateau of the travel and tourism market.

Hoteliers are not completely unhappy with July’s results. They’re not ready to say July’s 5.4 percent decline in occupancy is a trend, rather a reflection of new hotels opening, more accommodation options and possibly some fallout from last summer’s smoky skies, said Kevney Dugan, Visit Bend’s president and CEO.

“The increase in supply means we have more availability and that can affect the occupancy,” Dugan said. “It’s not a shock to me that we’re seeing this. It doesn’t cause any alarm.”

Even though hotel occupancy numbers were down in July, the height of Bend’s summer tourism, occupancy rates were north of 80 percent, according to data provided by STR, a global hospitality analytics firm. What’s more, in July the average daily room rate rose by a few cents to $170.69 a night compared to $170.15 last year, according to data provided by STR. August occupancy numbers are not available yet.

In Bend July’s occupancy rates were 83.4 percent, a 5.4 percent decline from the previous July, according to STR.

A better benchmark to determine the health of Bend’s tourism is the amount of money collected in hotel room taxes, Dugan said. In July visitors paid $1.37 million in room taxes compared to $1.42 million in the same period in 2017, a 3.5 percent decline, Dugan said.

Ashley Mitchell, Fairfield Inn & Suites director of sales, said the increase in room rates is a sign that visitors are still bullish on Bend. The hotel, which is on NW Wall Street, nearly completed a $1.7 million hotelwide renovation project that brought the property up to date with a new modern concept, Mitchell said.

“We might have reached our peak,” she said. “Bend isn’t Portland where the rates can keep rising. A lot of people are used to the old Bend when it was cheaper. I feel Bend has reached its peak as far as its average daily rates.”

The rates rose slower than previously because in the past two years two new properties began operating, the Best Western Premier and the Marriott Springhill Suites, said Ali Hoyt, STR senior director, consulting and analytics. It takes time for a tourism market to absorb new rooms, Hoyt said.

“The occupancy was down, and the rates were up in Bend,” she said. “That’s what we’ve been seeing nationally as well. Bend has seen some strong rate growth, 5.3 percent last year.”

At the small boutique hotel Pine Ridge Inn, occupancy in July closed out at the same rate as the year before, said Tyler Spragg, director of sales and marketing. With just 20 rooms, the independently owned hotel made up for any losses with increases in room rates, Spragg said.

“We may be just finding the ceiling in Bend,” Spragg said. “It’s been skyrocketing year over year. The reason for this year could be because last year was heavy on the fire season and people saw that and it could have affected repeat business.”

For years Visit Bend, a contracted tourism marketing organization for the city of Bend, has not been marketing the busy summer tourism season and instead threw its financial muscle into marketing the so-called shoulder seasons, spring and fall.

“The dip we saw in July doesn’t mean that summer tourism is falling off,” Dugan said. “I won’t have concerns until I see a big dip year over year.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

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