If early reservations are a sign that Bend is on the minds of visitors, then this winter season could be a busy one despite hardly any snow on Mt. Bachelor.

At Wanderlust Tours, which recently celebrated its 26th anniversary, customers have already signed up for winter events months in advance, said David Nissen, company president and founder.

Bend’s reputation as a desirable destination helped establish a solid summer; the average daily room rate rose 1.5% this July compared to the same time last year. Based upon previous winter seasons, the snow-dependent tourist destinations are feeling optimistic.

“Despite the warm temperatures and sunshine visitors are currently enjoying, Central Oregon is poised for a robust winter season ahead,” said Julia Theisen, Central Oregon Visitors Association CEO. “Mt. Bachelor boasts one of the longest seasons in the industry.”

Strong tourism numbers mean more tax revenues, according to data provided by Visit Bend. In July, the city of Bend collected $1.5 million in transient room taxes, a 13.2% increase over the same period the year before. In August, the city collected $1.4 million, a 4.3% increase over the same period before. That’s the result of a 6.3% increase in supply of hotel rooms, said Jan Freitag, senior vice president of STR, a global hotel industry data firm that provides hotel data.

At Mt. Bachelor, presales of lift tickets have been brisk, said Leigh Capozzi, Mt. Bachelor director of brand and communications. While the resort wouldn’t discuss exact numbers, it did say early sales of season passes have been trending upward.

“We realize the warm weather is getting a lot of attention, but doesn’t indicate how the season will shape up,” Capozzi said in an email. “We recognize that we are in a No Niña year (unpredictable), which we typically do really well with snowfall in years like this. There are no strong signals indicating otherwise, and looking back at previous years as a guide, this pattern we will typically have a good stormy northwest winter.”

The National Weather Service predicts that up to 35 inches of snow could fall in Bend during the winter months, a typical weather pattern for Central Oregon, said Jim Smith, observation program leader.

Nissen said he’s not nervous about how business will pan out given the lack of snow. Backed by years in the tourism industry, Nissen said the bookings will come if the activities are interesting, fresh and innovative.

“Looking forward, all systems seem very good for us at Wanderlust Tours,” Nissen said. “From a corporate group standpoint, it seems robust. It’s incumbent on us to provide a compelling reason for people to come here.”

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

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