For seven straight months, Bend’s transient room tax collections have surpassed previous years, according to tourism officials.
To date, fiscal year collections are running about 5.8% higher than the same period last year and total $7.2 million from July through March.
Visit Bend, the tourism marketing agent for the city, projects that room taxes will top $10 million in the fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1. Bend’s peak travel periods are summer, May through September. On average there are about 20,000 visitors a day, said Kevney Dugan, Visit Bend CEO.
A majority of the room tax collected goes to the city’s general fund, spent on fire, police and road improvements. The balance goes toward marketing the area as a tourist destination.
“There are more hotel rooms in the market, and assuming the economy cooperates, and we don’t have any severe weather events like a big fire season or an extremely harsh winter making for difficult travel during winter months, then I think we will see the industry continue to flourish,” Dugan said. “Bend is maintaining its role as a desirable place for people to visit. This combined with a good media plan and good marketing to back it up helped drive the tourism economy over the last six months.”
Those in the travel industry are embracing the growth, which came during the off-season months of September through May. At Tetherow in Bend, there’s a mix of vacation rentals and hotel options for guests, said Chris Van Der Velde, managing partner.
“As a whole we’re seeing more visitors,” Van Der Velde said. “The hotel numbers are up slightly, but the vacation rentals are getting a lot of business.”
Summer is looking even better for the resort, Van Der Velde said. The resort just added 27 vacation rentals and plans to add 16 more by this time next year, he said.
One city councilor believes tourism benefits businesses, but that attention drives up home prices as more people want to move to Bend.
“I have mixed feelings about whether tourism is healthy for our community,” Councilor Bill Moseley said. “Tourism helps businesses provide livelihood, and at the same time it promotes low-wage jobs, and it makes our economy more cyclical.”
In Bend, every sector of the economy depends on tourism growth, said city Councilor Barb Campbell.
“It’s a good source of revenue for the city,” Campbell said. “Hopefully we’ll see more of the results in bumping up marketing to more of the shoulder season getting visitors here to offset the busy summer months.”
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