Visitor spending fell to $ 953 billion in Northwestern Oregon in 2020.
This was a 42.3% drop after adjusting for inflation from 2019. Visitor spending had increased since 2011 until the pandemic recession hit and businesses were downsized in March 2020 The decline in spending in 2020 followed growth that had averaged around 3% per year. year since 2011. The region had seen spending cuts before, such as during the Great Recession, but nothing compared to the collapse of 2020.
Recreation and hospitality was generally the largest industrial sector in Northwestern Oregon. It provided nearly 13,300 salaried jobs on an average annual basis in 2020. This represented about 15% of all jobs (excluding self-employment) in Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln and Tillamook counties combined. The two largest parts of the sector are the accommodation industry (eg motels and campgrounds) and the food services and drinking places industry (eg restaurants and bars). The health of the industry largely depends on the spending of visitors.
Visitors also spend money in other industries such as retail, transportation, and even health services when vacation accidents happen. But since visitors represent a smaller portion of spending in these industries, the leisure and hospitality sector is considered the barometer of tourism.
Visitor spending peaked in 2006 at $ 1.37 billion (2020 dollars), then fell 2% the following year. It had its ups and downs during the Great Recession and the recovery. It fell to $ 1.29 billion in 2011 and soared until the pandemic hit in 2020. Travel and occupancy restrictions reduced the number of clients available to accommodation and food services businesses. , and many tourism businesses have closed or significantly reduced their offerings.
Benton County recorded the second largest drop in visitor spending (-57.2%) of all counties in Oregon. Benton County’s entertainment and hospitality industry remains one of the hardest hit in the state. In September 2021, industry employment was still 18% below the September 2019 level. Multnomah County (Portland) is the only metropolitan county that has lost more jobs yet. This is probably due to the changes made by students at Oregon State University. In-person learning is just the responsibility of OSU and it may take some time for their leisure and work activities to return to previous levels.
Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector can provide insight into how visitor spending will develop in 2021 – and it is improving rapidly but still not fully recovered. Employment in the five counties fell an unprecedented 55% from March to April in 2020. Employment in April 2021 was 100% higher than the previous year, but remained 14% lower than in April 2019 – the last year before the pandemic recession. As Northwestern Oregon’s leisure and hospitality moved into winter 2021, employment began its seasonal decline. Preliminary employment estimates show that recreation and hospitality employment in September was 8% higher than in September 2020, but 2,370 jobs remained below September 2019.
The long-term outlook for visitor spending is good. Employment in the recreation and hospitality industry in Northwestern Oregon is expected to increase 44% from 2020 to 2030. Much of this growth is based on expectation that the industry will recover. its previous level. Thereafter, industry employment is likely to grow by just under 1% per year.
A major unknown factor will be how the pandemic recession and resulting tight labor market will affect its adoption of labor-saving technologies and business practices. Businesses may also be more likely to implement service models, such as take-out, that allow them more flexibility to adapt to any future pandemic. There is nothing quiet in the professional life of business leaders!
Erik Knoder is a regional economist with the Oregon Department of Employment. He can be reached at 541-351-5595.