Hospitality Industry Puts Out Welcome


Local Facility Managers Predict Growth

Though snowflakes continue to powder the High Desert, it’s not too soon to begin thinking of the 2011 Spring and Summer tourist season and the electric anticipation of a potential upturn in business as our frosty economy slowly thaws. The Central Oregon hospitality industry is turning down the sheets, setting an extra plate and unrolling the welcome mat with gracious arms and bright smiles.


There’s every reason to believe this could be a promising year with advertising budgets for lodging, meetings and conventions all attempting to lure guests to our beautiful corner of the world.


Charles Kingsbaker, director of sales and marketing for Black Butte Ranch, is cautiously optimistic. “The outlook is good from a ranch perspective,” he said. “From what we’re seeing for advanced reservations we seem to be ahead of last year and forecasting some growth.  We’re in a unique situation because one of our golf courses is closed, Glaze Meadow, and we will have some compaction with the utilization between guests and homeowners with less golf inventory and are forecasting a great golf season.  


“Black Butte is going to see somewhere around four-seven percent growth over last year which is nice.   We’re very excited about hosting the PNGA Senior Amateur Golf Championship which brings 200 golfers from all over the Pacific Northwest for a 3-day stroke play tournament.  The one unknown is gas prices and if it gets astronomically high it may severely impact the regional drive market, not so much the fly market since the airlines hedge fuel costs.” 


Greg Willitts, owner/manager of FivePine Lodge and Conference Center in Sisters, is immediately upbeat but hesitates in his final outlook. 


“Advanced reservations continue to show weak figures because we are romance driven, not family adventure driven here at FivePine, but the year as a whole looks to be up five-six percent,” he said.  


“We have tremendous collaboration with similar properties, with support at every level though the hospitality community from Travel Oregon, COVA, Visit Bend, and Erin Borla at the Sisters Chamber who coordinates lodging for five major properties in the Sisters Country.  We all co-market and share info on opportunities and upcoming events and that helps.  This lets us make decisions based on those percentages and figures.  Everyone has a uniform vision of what Central Oregon can offer and are drawing more and more visitors to Central Oregon.  Gas prices don’t necessarily affect us, they’re more of a neutralizing factor.  We lose some guests but gain others for those choosing to do the Great American Roadtrip instead of flying.”  


Dan Despotopulos, director of Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center, looks at his full calendar schedule and likes what he sees.


 “We’re actually looking pretty busy,” he said.  “The events we’re bringing in here are going to have a huge economic impact on tourism in the region.  Coming up in the next few months, we do the State High School Equestrian Championships with over 800 competitors, and in August we have the County Fair, which has become the largest in the entire State of Oregon.  A new event we’re really excited about is Pat Parelli, world-famous natural horsemanship expert out of Colorado bringing his popular horse training clinics and lectures just after the fair.”


Deschutes County Fair will also host “The Rally” in August.  It’s a huge, national bonanza with 6000 motorhomes and RVs convening from all over the United States.  For animal lovers, the Mount Bachelor Kennel Club Dog Show on June 28-July 2 attracts thousands of pure-bred pals and their owners.


“I’m confident this year will be an improvement,” said Despotopulos.  “We are right at the halfway point in our fiscal year here at the fairgrounds and we’re having a little better year than the year before so things are picking up.  Let’s keep it rolling.” 

Erin Borla, executive director of Sisters Area Chamber Of Commerce is tackling the obstacles with a multi-pronged attack.


“In Sisters, we’re focusing on the I-5 corridor and encouraging travel from the Portland Metro market all the way down to Northern California,” she said.  “We love to work with our lodging partners along with the Central Oregon Visitors Association in order to help ‘rise the tide’ for all in the Central Oregon region including Sisters Country.  Our new promotional video, shot by local filmmakers, Eli Pyke and Zion Pictures, will be featured in a variety of ways online as well as through a multitude of channels including television commercials.”


Rocky Adrianson is hotel manager for The Riverhouse Hotel and Convention Center in Bend and also sees continued growth in all areas.


“2010 was a good year.  A lot of the convention contracts have a long lag time and we actually started seeing the right positive signs a year a half ago,” reported Adrianson.  “It’s not something that materializes right away, the ice is thawing a little and we see it panning out in 2011.  Having such a wonderful venue allows us to compete with the bigger markets throughout Oregon and Washington, being the third largest convention center in the state.  On the leisure side of business I see a continued uptick that began last summer.  It’s not huge growth but headed in the right direction.   Oil prices are a concern for sure and we’ll have to see but it looks like an optimistic outlook for 2011.  People are tired of hearing about the bad news and so it’s nice to see the sun shining a little bit.”


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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