A majority of people in Central Oregon have mixed feelings when it comes to tourism, according to the results of a survey done by Oregon Values and Beliefs Center.
The early May survey of 918 Oregon residents revealed tourism brings good revenue to a community but also brings traffic and congestion. In the survey, responses were nearly split between believing that tourism contributes a lot to a strong economy and produces traffic congestion.
In Central Oregon, nearly two-thirds of the respondents said tourism created a lot of traffic congestion. And nearly half of the respondents in Central Oregon said it contributed a lot to a strong economy.
The findings come at a time when officials are predicting a strong summer tourism season in Central Oregon. In March, Deschutes County collected $792,257 in transient room tax, compared to $159,829 the year before, which was at the start of the pandemic when the county asked visitors not to come.
The county has collected more than $8.5 million in room taxes from July 2020 to March, the month the most current data are available.
“It’s no surprise that Oregonians have mixed feelings when it comes to tourism,” said Amaury Vogel, Oregon Values and Beliefs Center associate executive director. “We appreciate the economic benefits like more jobs, business opportunities and increased revenue, but tourism can also take a toll on our communities. Central Oregon is a prime example.”
Travel Oregon’s 2019 annual report estimated that tourism in Central Oregon co ntributed about 10,000 jobs and visitor spending exceeded $1.3 billion the prior year. But the influx of visitors places increased demands on infrastructure and on the surrounding natural areas that are valued so highly by Oregonians and has negatively impacted affordability in the area, Vogel said.
A majority of Central Oregonians said in the survey that tourism contributes a lot to a strong economy. But by making it such a desirable place, it also made housing unaffordable in Central Oregon — not nearly as much as those on the north coast of Oregon, where 71% of the respondents said housing was unaffordable, according to the survey.
In the survey, respondents are encouraged to add in comments. One Deschutes County man said, “Tourists bring too much traffic and then they return and buy property creating more problems.”
The Oregon Values and Voices project, a nonpartisan charitable organization, has partnered with Pamplin Media Group, EO Media Group and the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. EO Media Group owns newspapers in Oregon and Washington state, including The Bulletin.
This survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from 1.9% to 3.2%, depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question.