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COVID-19 related slump in lodging taxes means semi-independent state agency has only $3 million instead of $8 million.

COURTESY: TRAVEL OREGON - The state agency that promotes tourism in Oregon, Travel Oregon, has seens its rvenues slump 60 percent because it depends on a hotel tax, and is laying off a third of its staff on June 1, 2020.

Travel Oregon spokesperson Sara Morrissey confirmed that the agency is laying off 17 of its 64 staff June 1.

Travel Oregon promotes Oregon tourism and is funded by the state lodging tax, which appears on hotel and vacation rental bills. Hotel and motel occupancy is down 63% from 2019.

Morrissey confirmed a report in OregonLive that the agency was expecting to have $8 million in income for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019-2020. That projection, however, is now coming in at $3 million.

When it comes to tourism revenue, rural Oregon is especially hurting right now. Many coastal towns have become dependent on tourism since the decline of logging and fishing, and their restaurants, coffee shops, and retail shops are being starved of tourist dollars.

"We're working in partnership through the governor 's reopening framework and her phased approach, and we're going to really be working closely with businesses across the state because we believe everyone can come together and reopen everything from the local community," said Morrissey.

Twenty percent of Travel Oregon's income is devoted to the regional corporate tourism program, which is embedded in state statute.

Travel Portland laid off 40% of its staff earlier in April.

Travel Oregon is also reviewing, suspending and canceling its contracts. The agency has people all around the world whom it wines and dines in Oregon, showing them the Seven Wonders and taking them on multiple trips. These contractors then package the trips with travel agents in their own country. Contractors "in market" in France, Australia and New Zealand have had their contracts suspended since little international tourism is expected here this summer.

The remaining staff will see pay cuts on a sliding scale based on position.

The Salem office of eight people is also closing. Travel Oregon's headquarters is at Southwest Third Avenue and Washington in downtown Portland.

Joseph Gallivan
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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