Summertime construction delays on Highway 199 were blamed for a 21 percent decrease in visitors to the Brookings-Harbor area in 2001, according to the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

The decrease can be attributed in large part to the construction and attendant delays along Highway 199 through the years heaviest tourism months, keeping visitors away from the most direct ladder route to the I-5 corridor, said chamber Executive Director Les Cohen.

Despite the decrease last year, the overall number of visitors to the coast since 1998 continues to rise, he said.

In giving a financial report to the Brookings City Council last week, Cohen said the number of visitors in 2001 was less than 1999 and 2000, but higher than recorded in 1998.

The chamber recorded a 16.2 percent increase in 2000 and 10.5 percent in 1999.

The numbers are based on visitors to the chambers information center at the Port of Brookings Harbor and State Welcome Center at Harris Beach, Cohen said.

While the overall number of visitors in 2001 was down, the number of visitors to the chambers center at the port was a record 20,782.

That is the highest visitor count recorded at this site since records began to be kept in 1986, Cohen said. It proves that relocating the center (from downtown Brookings) to the port was a benefit, not a detriment.

A city ordinance requires the chamber give the city an annual report detailing marketing and promotion expenditures paid for using money allotted by the city from transient room tax revenues.

According to the ordinance, the city gives the chamber no more than 30 percent of its room tax revenue for marketing and promoting the Brookings-Harbor area.

City Manager Leroy Blodgett said the city received approximately $120,000 in room tax revenue for 2001, with the chamber getting approximately $30,000.

Cohen said the chamber added to that with its own money to spend a total of $52,000 on marketing and promotions in 2001. He was quick to point out that none of the transient tax money it received from the city was spent for the chambers administrative cost or operation of its visitor information center.

The chamber raises much of its revenue through membership dues, fundraising activities, program services and special events.

Chamber President Peter Spratt also addressed the City Council, saying 2001 was a very interesting year.

It started with the threat of Highway 199 being closed, but it didnt turn out as bad as we thought it would be.

He said both local and national tourism was negatively impacted in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Still, he added, the Brookings-Harbor area only suffered a 2.4 percent decrease in transient room tax.

This is a testament to the hard work of the Brookings-Harbor Chamber, Spratt said.

As for this year, Spratt told the council he was feeling very bullish.

This looks to be a year of significant activity, he said

The chamber is working with Salmon Run golf course to establish a tourist information area there, similar to the one at Fred Meyer, he said. The chamber also plans to develop and mail out a CD-Rom containing tourist and business information about the community.

The chambers biggest effort this year will be to develop strategic partnerships with other chambers, organizations and businesses to promote the region.