Despite uncertainty as we go into a new year, I remain cautiously optimistic for the year ahead. The longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history is negatively impacting travel operations and revenue. According to an analysis by the U.S. Travel Association, the shutdown is costing the tourism industry more than $100 million a day, which includes nearly $50 million a day in direct domestic travel spending and more than $50 million in indirect and induced travel-related output, according to the trade group. But despite this, Americans are still indicating intent to travel. According to the most recent report from U.S. Travel, a whopping 96 percent of Americans intend to travel for vacation in 2019 according to a survey of over 3,500 consumers. And a majority of these respondents are planning at least two of more leisure trips this year. Reports show continued growth in the travel sector, albeit at a slower pace than past years.
On a regional level, tourism continues to be the largest industry in Central Oregon, welcoming more than 4.4 million overnight guests and employing more than 9,400 residents in 2018 and generating total economic impacts that exceed $1.2 billion annually. The tourism industry is also a powerful driver for Central Oregon’s economic diversification, new business recruitment and overall quality of life for residents.
Demand for visitation to Central Oregon remains strong based on metrics from airlines, hotels and revenue collection. And with increased demand, the region is meeting the needs by responding with increased supply in hotel rooms — with the addition of new hotels including Residence Inn by Marriott and Best Western Premiere in Bend. By 2020, Redmond is expected to add three new hotels which will double their current hotel room inventory to meet visitor demand.
Visit Central Oregon serves as the regional destination marketing arm for Central Oregon and our mission is to drive overnight visitation to the region for an enduring economy. Looking forward, our goals include strategic use of resources to level the seasonality of visitor demand –— winter and shoulder seasons still show strong opportunity for growth where tourism volumes are much lower than peak seasons, and marketing efforts will aim to create a more sustainable revenue cycle for tourism-related businesses. We are also working on creating opportunities to enhance tourism development and sustainability in rural areas with our matching grant program allocating funds to regional nonprofit tourism projects. Another important goal is to increase the promotion of arts and culture as a key driver for tourism to our region.
Critical to a healthy tourism economy is easy access to the destination. The Central Oregon Air Service Team (COAST) is a collaborative regional partnership focused on maintaining and developing air service to Redmond Airport, and we’ve seen continued growth in air service with a 19 PERCENT increase in capacity in 2018 over 2017. This year, we are delighted to announce a new daily direct flight on United Airlines between Redmond and Chicago O’Hare with service planned from June 6 through October. This opens up a new market for residents — leisure and business travelers alike — as well as making connections to the East Coast and international destinations more accessible. Visit Central Oregon’s marketing efforts remain focused on our direct flight markets including campaigns targeted at Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Phoenix. This year we will launch a robust marketing campaign in the Chicago market to generate awareness and bookings for the new service with a multi-channel marketing campaign.
The region has much to highlight as a world class tourism destination, including access to outdoor recreation, some of the country’s top golf courses and premier skiing, arts, culture, events and a vibrant food and craft beer scene. In 2019, we will welcome numerous large-scale events that will positively impact the region including the USA Bouldering Nationals, the USA BMX Great NW Nationals, Pacific Crest Triathlon Weekend Sports Festival, Cascade Relay and Pacific Amateur Golf Classic and many others. Visitors and locals alike can celebrate art, music and culture in all parts of the region including Art in the High Desert, the Sunriver Music Festival, Sisters Folk Festival, the Newberry Music Festival and so much more.
The future for the region looks bright with continued strong demand, regional collaboration and strategic use of funds and resources to create a long-term sustainable tourism economy. As a recent transplant to Central Oregon, I welcome your thoughts and vision for the future of the region.