What will this summer tourist season look like around here?
On the face of it, things look pretty bleak. The COVID-19 pandemic refuses to go away, and the number of cases has spiked in two dozen states, including Oregon, although not so much in Douglas County.
Virtually all summer activities that would bring locals and tourists alike — Music on the Half Shell, Graffiti Weekend, several outdoor concerts, etc., have been cancelled.
Cam Campman, General Manager/Creative Director of Anvil Northwest, the Roseburg-based company hired by the city last year to promote tourism in the region, put it succinctly in a presentation he gave to the City Council this week.
“Needless to say, the world got weird in the last three months. Everything fundamentally changed,” Campman said. “I feel like everything has an asterisk right now, especially when you talk about summertime. It feels like summer got cancelled.”
But Campman went on to say that not everything surrounding this tourism season is doom and gloom. Yes, Anvil has had to scale back its tourism promotion a bit and retool it, Campman said. But this region is still a hidden jewel that can draw visitors, especially those seeking to get away from the big city and enjoy some natural beauty and solitude, he said.
“Roseburg is a secret spot. Secret spots are always precious,” Campman said.
Allen Pike concurs. Pike is general manager of Hampton Inn & Suites in Roseburg and Chairman of the Board of the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
Like most area hotels and motels, Hampton Inn remained open throughout COVID-19 and always had some guests, Pike said. People are still coming here for business, pleasure or both, he said. Yes, occupancy at Hampton Inn is still off a bit, especially during the week, but weekends have been fairly strong, he said.
“We sold out this past weekend and were very close to sold out the weekend before,” Pike said. “Weekdays are not quite as busy, but we’ve been close to sold out here and there. Other hotels are also getting busier.”
Like many hotels, Hampton Inn had to tweak some things in response to COVID-19. But the changes are fairly minor and guests have been understanding and even appreciative, he said.
“Breakfast is served with most of the same items, but it is more cafeteria style with guests taking their food to go. Our fitness room has a few less pieces of equipment available and our pool only allows one family in there at a time. It’s a different experience, but guests seem to understand we are all doing our best to follow the both the requirements and recommendations of the state. Most of the business we are seeing are leisure travel, whereas we normally see more business travel at our hotel.“
Like Campman, Pike said the beauty of this region sells itself.
“We are in a uniquely beautiful area with many outdoor attractions,” Pike said. “We have seen people really flocking to the outdoors with all this going on. I think the CDC saying that COVID dies quickly in sunlight helps with that.
“We have people coming to see Crater Lake, Wildlife Safari, the North Umpqua Trail, etc. A lot of the folks we are seeing are from the Portland area, but it’s really a mixture of folks from different locations...We don’t really have any festivals that bring in a significant number of people to the area, most of what we see on a regular basis are people looking for that natural beauty...We have a lot of great community events that are unfortunately getting cancelled, but most of them have never really had too huge of a tourism impact.”
Pike did toss in one caveat — people wary of traveling during the pandemic may choose to simply stay home.
“The biggest issue we will run into is that the total volume of travelers will likely be down,” he said. “I don’t think, in our area, it will be attributable to activities and festivals being cancelled so much as a lot of people just choosing not to travel right now, and especially businesses that aren’t having their employees travel.”