Needless to say, this has been an incredibly difficult year for the tourism industry, which normally is an economic driver for Douglas County.
The coronavirus pandemic had a crippling effect on what had been shaping up to be a robust tourism season. Pretty much every event was cancelled, including annual favorites like Music on the Half Shell, Graffiti Weekend and the county fair.
The Downtown Roseburg Association alone had seven major events scheduled this summer, including a three-part outdoor concert series that had booked national musicians; a Spring Street Festival; and Forks, Corks, and Ales, a downtown food festival. None of them took place.
If that weren’t enough, the recent spate of wildfires has made a bad situation worse. More than 131,000 acres of pristine forest — and more than 100 homes — was burned in Douglas County alone. As you can imagine, that put an even bigger crimp on tourism in the region.
One early indicator of the depressed state of tourism here can be found in the amount of taxes collected from stays in hotels and motels within the city. Last year the so-called tourism tax collected $250,746 in the first quarter and $325,928 in the second quarter, for a six month total of $577, 674.
This year that same tax collected $185,393 in the first quarter and $177,425 in the second quarter, for a total of $362,818. That’s a decrease of 37% for the first six months of this year compared to last. But the coronavirus didn’t really begin to have an effect on the economy here until mid-March, so the second quarter numbers are more telling. Revenue was down 46% in second quarters year-to year, a significant decline.
The third quarter numbers have not been released yet, but factor in the wildfires and you would certainly expect the downward trend to continue.
That revenue nosedive in tourism tax dollars is already being felt here.
The City of Roseburg has a grant program for tourism promotion. Most grants are in the $5,000 range and support things like outdoor music festivals, an annual quilt festival and a vineyard bicycle tour — all events that were cancelled this year.
However, due to the drop in tourism tax funds, the grant program has been suspended for at least the fall/winter cycle. City officials say they will reevaluate the status of the grant program next spring to see if there is enough money available to hand out grants for next spring and summer.
The City of Roseburg Economic Development Commission, which oversees the tourism grant program as well as other tourism-related endeavors, is scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss those issues.
City of Roseburg Finance Director Ron Marker will detail the situation with the hotel/motel tax and what the drop in revenues might mean for tourism-related expenditures.
The commission is also scheduled to hear from Brad Niva, Executive Director of Travel Southern Oregon, who will talk about the current state of tourism in southern Oregon and statewide, and what the tourism landscape looks like for 2021.
Commissioners will also hear from representatives from Anvil Northwest, the Roseburg marketing firm that handles tourism promotion for the city.
Anvil has pretty much acknowledged that 2020 has been a wash for tourism promotion. They unveiled a web site, www.experienceroseburg.com, and have filled it with photos, videos, stories and other vibrant content.
One of the themes of this year’s tourism ad campaign was solitude. After all, what better place to isolate and stay safe from the coronavirus than the woods here.
Next year’s ads will feature a “Find Your …” campaign. Preliminary ads show a fisherman with the words “Find your fish story.” Other ads ask you to “Find your Place to Exhale” and “Find your Favorite Brew.”
Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m., and will be held remotely. It will be aired live on the city’s Facebook page and web site.