(Update: Adding quotes from Visit Bend, Visit Central Oregon)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The city of Bend is discouraging tourists from visiting the area until it is safer to do so, and with Memorial Day weekend just around the corner and summer fast approaching, it could leave a heavy financial impact on the city.
The state lifted some restrictions in Deschutes and most other counties last Friday, but Gov. Kate Brown’s stay at home order remains in effect. Phase I of her reopening plan could last at least three weeks.
Gov. Brown’s plan still discourages non-essential travel, and the city's extended emergency declaration passed unanimously Wednesday night by city councilors does much the same. (It does not apply to stays longer than 30 days, or people without permanent homes.)
Bend City Manager Eric King told NewsChannel 21 Thursday the city received an average of $9.2 million a year from hotel and short-term vacation stays between 2016 and 2019.
He said $6.2 million of the revenue from hotel and vacation rentals stay within the city. Of that, $200,000 goes directly to the general fund for city services, which supports the police department, fire department and street maintenance.
King said $3 million cycles back to tourism promotion through the city’s contract with Visit Bend, which state law dictates.
Visit Bend says outdoor recreation, leisure and brewery tourism make up 69% of the most common reasons people come to Bend. That is according to Visit Bend’s latest summer visitor survey conducted in 2017.
The survey says Californians made up 19% of out-of-state visitors, with Washington following at 15%. Data shows Bend also attracts a large portion of in-state visitors, drawing in 30% of visitors from the Portland area.
Kevney Dugan, the chief executive officer of Visit Bend, said it is up to residents of Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties to support their local businesses.
“I’ve been with Visit Bend 10 years, and when I first got here, about a third of our people were repeat visitors from outside the area,” Dugan said. “We now flipped that on the head, and about 66 percent of our visitors are people who have visited before.”
Until non-essential travel is welcome again, Dugan encourages Central Oregon residents to become tourists in their own cities and explore places they have not visited before, whether that includes going to Mt. Bachelor or going on a Wanderlust Tour.
“People are going to destinations that they’re comfortable with,” Dugan said. “To me, that means people who have visited Bend in the past and liked their experience have a high likelihood of coming back when the time comes.”
Joey Hamilton, the chief marketing officer of Visit Central Oregon, said it is unusual for a tourism office to discourage people from visiting. However, he said he believes it is their responsibility to keep their community safe.
“You’d like to think that everyone would be able to survive, but I think that just might not be possible,” Hamilton said. “There are a lot of things out there that are trying to help businesses recover from this, but sadly I think that some business will not come out in the end.”