The Southern Oregon Coast is holding its own during what economists believe is the end of the recession, fiscal challenges at the county level and a summer of record-high gasoline prices.
“The Brooking-Harbor tourism industry has actually fared very well compared to other parts of the state,” said Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Les Cohen. “It has to do directly with the effectiveness of promotions the chamber’s been doing all these years. We’ve seen a lot of activity.”
The chamber has adjusted its target market area to accommodate high gas prices, notably those in California, and the shorter distances visitors are traveling on vacation.
In August, 3,795 people came to the visitor’s center at Crissey Field, down from 3,815 in August of 2011, but up from 3,155 in 2010.
Visitors to the chamber office in Harbor jumped from 3,483 in 2010 to 3,944 in August this year. Combined, physical visits in August to the chamber and information center jumped from 6,638 in 2010 to 7,739 this summer.
Website inquiries to the chamber totaled 16,218.
Cohen said the progress is due to cumulative years of work.
“That stuff doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “We’ve had to build up branding, build up an image, and what we’re seeing over this last summer are the results of promotion efforts that have gone on before.”
He believes the coastal area has managed to survive the worst of the “great recession.”
“We have held very well,” he said. “Our visitor numbers compared to other parts of the state have been relatively consistent. If they declined, they declined only in small percentages, compared to other parts of the state that had double-digit declines.”
He noted those figures do not include the Portland area, which gets more visitors, but that the South Coast usually comes in second or third after that area.
“Brookings-Harbor is the gateway to the Oregon Coast, and the Oregon Coast is the Number One tourist attraction in the state of Oregon,” he said. “Not only does the economy of Brookings-Harbor depend on good promotion, but so does the Oregon Coast. It’s just the desirability of folks wanting to come to the South Coast.”
Ken Bryan, owner of Wild Rivers MotorLodge and past chairman of the chamber, said his business increased enough to match his best years of 2009 and 2010.
“It’s pretty amazing,” he said. “We’ve bounced back from what was a pretty bad year last year. Last year we took quite a hit; it was rough, but we’ve seen it start to come back, and we’re really encouraged by that.”
Pre-reservations are up – always a good indication of a healthy lodging situation.
“People still take their trips, even in a recession,” Bryan said. “They spend less, they look for deals. But it comes back faster, too. That’s the real indication.”
On the retail front, Mary Cook of A Wild Bird and Backyard General Store, said the store’s varied offerings brought in loyal customers and visitors alike.
“We did very well,” she said of this summer. “We constantly change things in our store and add new fun things, the different events keep people interested. We have lots of local art, gifts for kids – everything from soap to seed. I have a very positive outlook on how we’re doing.”
Cook and Bryan are cautiously optimistic about the coming year.
“I’m encouraged – tentative, but encouraged,” Bryan said. “The key is to take that and blitz your marketing out so everyone who was here comes back.”