July 1, 2022 —
A majority of Oregonians believe that the natural beauty of the state is its biggest draw for visitors, according to a recent survey of 1,674 people 18 and older by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center (OVCB).
Two-thirds of Oregon residents, at 65 percent, responded that parks, natural areas and beaches brought in the most out-of-state tourists, followed by the shops, restaurants and breweries, at 37 percent.
Florence increases both of these, from the sprawling beaches and large coastal dunes to the businesses of Historic Old Town, which contribute to the $ 200.6 million spent by tourists in 2021, a 35 percent increase from pre-COVID years, according to the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Our ocean access is probably our number one, and our sand dunes I think are number two,” said Chamber President / CEO Bettina Hannigan. “Then we’ve got the casino and the golf courses.… We’ve got a lot of camping. With Florence being a town that’s 125 years old, we’ve got a lot of traditions where people come over and they have happy memories here. ”
Most Oregonians, 71 percent, reported feeling positive about tourism in their communities. Another 66 percent of Oregon residents associated tourism with a strong local economy, a figure that jumped to 82 percent with respondents over the age of 75. Tourism was also associated with well -paying jobs and funding for public services.
“It makes us more vibrant to have tourism, and for the local economy it is vital,” a man from Lane County responded to the survey. “While I personally will avoid large crowded areas, we need to welcome some normalcy.”
While feelings were mostly positive, increased tourism was also associated with sacrifices like traffic congestion and, especially in younger demographics, the lack of affordable housing.
Bettina Hannigan, the President and CEO of the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce, said that while tourism is the “lifeblood” of the community, it can be hard on residents when restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations are consistently full.
“It’s kind of a hard pill to swallow, but we’ve had to accept it that tourism is our largest economic generator here in our area.” Hannigan said. “The locals give up a lot to support that.”
She said there are things people can do to make the summer tourist season easier, and that includes the “seven Ps” — proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.
“If you’re going to do something in the summertime, you need to employ your seven Ps and do a little proper prior planning. You know, make a reservation, plan on walking; you might not get your parking spot on Bay Street. You might have to park at the port or down at the old Lotus building and walk a couple bucks. It’s not the end of the world. ”
Among respondents from Lane County who answered OVCB’s survey, many of the open-ended responses indicated concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and overcrowding within local communities.
At the local restaurant Homegrown at one point during peak season, the waitlist reached 225 people.
According to owner Elaine McMillan, 45-minute waits for a table or for food can be normal during the peak season.
However, as Hannigan said, the tourism industry both directly and indirectly supports a variety of the services that Florence has. The diverse selection of restaurants would not be otherwise possible in a town of this size, she said. The revenue can also support infrastructure, such as the local hospital.
“The different services that we have here are all supported — indirectly sometimes — by our tourism,” she added.
In Florence, the big upticks in tourism start with spring break, the Rhododendron Festival and the Fourth of July, and can last into October.
In order to prepare for this, McMillan started hiring and training new staff for Homegrown in the weeks before students left school for spring break in order to meet the demand. The size of her staff can double or triple to prepare for the summer rush.
In order to bring more tourists into Florence during the “off season” of mid-fall to spring, the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce has been investing more of its advertising money into promoting winter events. Hannigan talked about these to the Florence City Council on June 20. This included the decision to move the Wine, Chowder & Glass Float Trail to February and the promotion of the “Making Spirits Bright” holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.
The meeting also included the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce’s plans for the completion of the highway banner program, the creation of the illustrated “Discovery Map” of businesses around Florence’s highway and Historic Old Town and the recent contract with SimpleView, a global tourism website developer That has worked with cities from Roseburg to Las Vegas, to redesign the FlorenceChamber.com website. The site will be live by 2023 for the summer season.