Small businesses can help drive tourism recovery
As industries across the country start the recovery process after being financially pummeled by COVID-19, one sector, in particular, has been hit tremendously hard: tourism.
In Oregon, tourism revenue is a significant economic pillar. A consistent influx of visitors to our scenic national parks and trails generates money spent in restaurants, breweries, tours, and lodging, all of which employ Oregonians and propels growth.
In 2019, tourism employed 117,500 Oregonians; employee earnings were up to $3.8 billion; and visitor spending capped at $12.8 billion, according to the most recent statistics from Travel Oregon. All of these numbers increased from 2018.
No doubt, the statewide tourism industry was going strong. Then, the coronavirus happened.
The pandemic has made traveling next to impossible, and at the least, largely unsafe. It forced closures across the industry, from local eateries to globally recognizable sites, such as Multnomah Falls. Of course, it has left many unemployed, with one-third of unemployment claims coming from those in the leisure and hospitality sectors.
Now, as we look toward reopening, it's time to recognize why and how tending to the tourism industry wounds will be critical for recovery.
At a recent virtual meeting of the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce, Lizzie Keenan, Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge regional specialist for Travel Oregon, shared her perspective.
"We need locals to feel comfortable moving around in the new normal before visitors will be comfortable," Keenan said. "Visitors are looking for those signals."
For consumers, this is easy enough. Most of us are eager to get back to our favorite restaurants or drive to Cannon Beach to enjoy some summer sun. But how can the countless small business owners who live and work in Oregon get involved?
Keenan provided tactical tips that Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific agree are excellent ways businesses can contribute to economic revitalization:
Recovery will be slow, but all hope is not lost. Yes, in Oregon, our COVID-19 cases have gone back up, as of this writing on June 25. We are airing on the conservative side in terms of rolling into the next phases, with the densest parts of Portland (Washington, Clackamas, and Multnomah Counties still all in Phase 1). But the silver lining is this: people want to travel.
Travel Oregon compiled the following data to illustrate what we can expect:
Keeping others safe and the infection rate down continues to be the highest priority. But, as we welcome more traveling, it will be critical business owners actively participate. Remember: enhance your visibility, communicate your new experiences, and connect within your local communities to help funnel visitor spending back into Oregon.
Danielle Kane is the Portland Marketplace Manager for Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific. She can be reached at 503-833-2301.
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