Tourism drop forces Travel Portland to cut staff
Travel Portland, the official destination marketing and management organization for the city, has reduced staff 40% and is making other budget cuts because of cratering hotel and motel bookings caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
"These unprecedented times are unfortunately calling for unprecedented measures," Jeff Miller, president & CEO of Travel Portland, said in a statement Wednesday, April 1. "As we have watched the city we love and have the honor of promoting suffer the impacts of this pandemic, we have had to reevaluate how we do our work. The work we do now, both internally and externally, will define how Portland comes out of this when recovery begins. We are doing what we need to do now to ensure our ability to be poised and ready for this work."
According to lodging statistics released with the statement, vacancies are increasing as follows:
• For the week of March 15-21, room demand, or the number of rooms sold in a specific time period, was 74.9% lower than the same period last year.
• Hotel revenue declined 80.6% from the same period last year and occupancy totaled 18.3%, falling 76.1% from the previous year.
• For March 22-28, demand for lodging was 79.4% lower than the previous year. Occupancy was 15.5%; a decline of 80.4%.
• Hotel revenue was 85.5% lower than the previous year.
According to the statement, Travel Portland has scaled back work in key international markets for which direct flight service has been halted. In addition, work to support meeting planners who have conventions coming to town has stalled with many upcoming meetings postponed or cancelled.
As a result, Travel Portland will focus its work on advocacy for the hospitality community, convention sales, marketing, communications and operations. It is actively participating in the following task forces:
• The Metro Economic Response Team, co-convened by Gov. Kate Brown's Metro Regional Solutions Program and Greater Portland Inc.
• The Economic Impact & Intervention Task Force, convened by Mayor Ted Wheeler and Prosper Portland.
• The Regional Business Relief Coalition, led by the Portland Business Alliance.
The announcement followed news last week that Metro, the elected regional government, also is cutting staff 40% and making other budget cuts because of a decline in tourism and recreational activities. Metro makes much of its revenue from visitor and spectator venues that essentially closed when Gov. Brown banned gathering of 250 or more people, a limit she dropped to 25 before issuing a statewide stay-at-home order.
Before the economy began to shut down, Portland's tourism industry made significant gains in contributing to the economic health of the region between 2010-19, the statement said. Employment earnings nearly doubled during this time, increasing 94%, or from $808 million in 2010 to $1.6 billion in 2019. In the same time period, tourism spending grew 52%, from $3.7 billion in 2010 to $5.6 billion in 2019. Industry employment also received a 38% boost, from 26,700 in 2010 to 36,930 workers last year.
Year-over-year increases were reported in six key metrics: spending, earnings, employment, local taxes, state taxes and total taxes. The greatest jump for 2019 versus 2018 was in earnings, which increased 7.6%. State taxes followed, with growth of 5.1%, and spending rose 4.8%. Additionally, the industry added workers, increasing jobs by 2.0%.
"The Portland values of collaboration, innovation and an extreme dedication to hard work will carry us to the other side of this," Miller said. "We see and acknowledge that the impacts on small businesses and their employees are measurable and real. We are committed to supporting this local community as best we can, while also being ready to bring visitors back to our city and our small businesses just as soon as travel resumes. While part of our role is as promoter of our city as a tourism destination, we are also a steward of this evolving city and its progressive values.
"We believe strongly in the good of Portland, and we are committed to the doing this work alongside and on behalf of our partners."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.