Summer is here and that means vacation time for many people from all over the globe. Washington County is a choice destination for people from across the U.S. and around the world. It also touts the second highest tourism related revenues in Oregon.
People choose to vacation in Washington County to sample our world-renowned network of wineries; to ride our scenic bikeways and extensive trail networks in and around our county; to paddle and explore the Tualatin River via stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes; or to float and fish at Henry Hagg Lake. Washington County is also home to some of the highest-ranked public and private golf courses in the country. Ghost Creek at Pumpkin Ridge and The Reserve Vineyards & Golf Club see a number of out-of-town visitors during these busy summer months.
As a county with a strong agriculture base, many visitors come to experience our farm to table restaurant fare. They visit our farms to meet the usual barnyard inhabitants, but also to see the llamas, alpacas, and Pygora goats that call Washington County home. Our visitors also travel the nationally recognized Quilt Barn Trail, which is composed of 60 different large wood blocks that have been hand-painted in traditional quilt patterns, symbolizing the significance of the area or the farm where it is located.
It's not all about pleasure though. About 70 percent of overnight visitors staying at our local hotels are here on business. Those individuals typically meet with officials from Nike, Intel, Columbia Sportswear, and many of the other of businesses that keep our economy strong. These business travelers pay tabs in our local restaurants and make purchases at local stores, which sometimes includes buying gifts for those family members left at home.
A high percent of hotel stays are also from families participating in soccer, softball, baseball, and other sports related tournaments. We often see their cars decorated in support of their teams, perhaps at a local restaurant, where these families are spending dollars in support of the tourism economy. After all, money spent at Chuck. E. Cheese has the same value as those dollars spent at wineries.
Another draw for those traveling to Oregon is the advantage of not having to pay sales tax. While our region is a great recreational area, it is also known for being safe, affordable, and accessible. Washington Square, for example, is one of the largest shopping centers in Oregon, partly because of its desirable location. A large percent of its gross sales come from out-of-state and international visitors.
It is nice that Washington County offers a high quality of life for our residents and for those visiting here, but why is all this important to Westside Economic Alliance? Economic impact is why. During 2018, Washington County had 3.2 million overnight visitors that spent $718.2 million dollars. These are big numbers, and it also supports 8,730 jobs. For every $100 that a visitor spends in support of these jobs, $6.44 goes to state and local tax revenues.
In our county, one indicator of projected future growth in tourism can be seen by looking at the number of hotel rooms here. Between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, two new hotels with a combined 192 rooms were built and brought into service; an additional six hotels are currently under construction and are expected to have 671 total new rooms occupiable by late 2020. Word is that with our high occupancy rate, the demand continues to increase with even more hotels anticipated on the horizon in Washington County.
As a population that lives and works here in our beautiful county, we need to appreciate the value of tourism in relation to our healthy economy. When you see those out-of-state license plates on the car traveling next to you on the road or highway, remember many of their passengers are leaving their dollars behind here in Washington County.
Brantley Dettmer is the Chief Operating Officer of Kaiser Permanente's Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro, and board president of the WEA. Learn more about the WEA at: westsidealliance.org