Like so many others, I love to travel and, typically, as soon as I get back from one trip, set my sights on the next destination on my list and start counting down the days.
As travel editor at the Vancouver Courier newspaper, a board member of the B.C. branch of the Travel Media Association of Canada, and a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, travel is a big part of my life, just as it is with friends and family and the many other travel writers I’ve come to know over the years.
But, with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve found ourselves in an unprecedented situation in which travel as we all know it has been grounded.
With no set date as to when we might once again begin packing too many clothes for that weekend away or trip to warmer climes
In an effort to catch a glimpse of future travel trends and garner information about just when some destinations might once again be open for business, I reached out to travel experts and tourism bureaus across Canada and the globe for answers to five similar questions.
And while no one can predict the future, all are hopeful travel will soon resume. But, how exactly that will look is anyone’s guess.
If you are part of a destination management organization or represent a property and want to share your thoughts, please drop me a line at email@example.com.
Five questions with Greg Eckhart, director of global sales for Travel Oregon.
How do you measure tourism numbers for your destination?
Canada is Oregon’s top international market with regional travellers from the Pacific Northwest, including British Columbia, contributing to our core visitation.
Travel Oregon measures our visitor economy through a number of industry sources, including, Tourism Economics, Adara, Tour Extract Report and Smith Travel Report.
How has COVID-19 impacted tourism in your region?
We have, of course, seen and felt the economic impacts of the pandemic in Oregon. In 2019, Oregon was in its 10th consecutive year of record growth in travel-related spending and visitation.
Tourism was a USD $12.8 billion industry employing 117,500 Oregonians.
Now, hotel occupancy rates are currently down 63 per cent and the revenue per available room has plummeted by 75 per cent.
Eight in 10 tourism employees are out of work. The Port of Portland has reported the daily number of daily passengers through PDX is down over 95 per cent.
As a positive, the governors of Washington State, Oregon and California have collaborated on a Western States Pact — a working group with a shared vision for fighting COVID-19.
Nevada and Colorado have also recently joined the pact. In Oregon, we are working closely with Governor Kate Brown’s office, and public health officials on phased plans to begin reopening and rebuilding our economy.
Do you believe the virus has changed the way people are looking at travel?
The pandemic may change the way people travel just as the 9/11 attacks did.
Initially, people may be reluctant to get on an airplane or go far from home, but we believe people will be seeking reconnection. At first with family and friends, then regionally and eventually through international travel.
Our visitors to Oregon are already responsible travellers, but we believe that when it is safe to travel again, our state will attract visitors who understand and appreciate our approach to sustainability, environmental stewardship and nature-based wellness and mindfulness.
Initiatives ranging from Take Care Out There (promoting responsible recreation in Oregon) to the majority of Oregon’s wineries being designated as biodynamic, Salmon Safe or LIVE Certified, are part of our everyday fabric in Oregon.
We want to ensure outdoor opportunities for health, connection and joy for generations of Oregonians and visitors to come.
What does the future hold for your destination and when do you think it will be welcoming visitors once again?
It has been with a heavy heart that we have asked our visitors to please stay at home as Oregon, and the world, take action to slow the spread of COVID-19.
It is difficult to predict how industry conditions will play out in coming months as the governor’s office implements plans to reopen the Oregon economy.
As we look towards recovery, our focus will be at the local level as we will be following the governor’s phased reopening plan.
As travel restrictions are gradually lifted, we’ll start pushing out messaging starting with hyper-local markets, then across the state to all Oregonians, then drive markets and finally nationally and internationally.
This approach will be phased and based on the guidance from the Governor and public health authorities.
When it is safe to do so, we’ll be reaching out to Oregonians and urging them to reconnect with other Oregonians that have been hurt by this downturn, and encouraging locals to tangibly reconnect with the state – our incredible parks and natural sites, our charming communities, our world-renowned restaurants, wineries and breweries.
From there, we expect people will go on driving vacations. The Western States Pact will ensure the Western U.S. reopens responsibly.
Visitors from British Columbia, the Pacific Northwest and our fellow Western states will be the first to travel to Oregon and this partnership will be vital to our immediate recovery and long-term economic comeback.
We look forward to welcoming our neighbours back to Oregon!
What travel trends do you predict for later this year and 2021?
Travel is something many of us have taken for granted, and losing the privilege to do so may create a greater sense of gratitude and appreciation among travellers for the places they visit and the people they meet.
Oregon lends itself well to the trends of wellness and “slow” travel – the concept of doing less on vacation and savouring the experiences had.
Travel will be different – nothing is going to go back to just the way it was. We have to be smarter, more strategic, and look at new ways to partner and support all industries in this recovery together.
Visitors will have to adapt to new protocols about how to behave safely while recreating outdoors during the health pandemic from planning before they go out to curbing expectations while they are outside.
Based on this, we predict that we’ll see a rise in local “staycations” – living like a local – and, of course, road trips. Which Oregon is perfect for!
Much of Oregon was formed by volcanic activity which created a series of geothermic hot springs (more than 45), Crater Lake National Park (the deepest lake in the U.S.) and the stunning Oregon Coast (over
580 kms long), as well as other Oregonian icons such as Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor and the Painted Hills. Oregon takes its outdoor adventure seriously and offers wellness and mindfulness through its scenic beauty as well as its connection to food, its terroir and the land.
There’s more than one way to explore Oregon from home and Eckhart hopes you’ll be inspired to visit in person — when it’s okay to do so. “And we’ll be here when you’re ready.”
- Family guide to Oregon, including a colouring book, activity book, games, etc. can be found here.
- Lights, Camera, Oregon! Choose from hundreds of Oregon-made films and TV series here.
- Oregon for your ears: Give your eyes a break with local musicians and podcasters. Listen here.
- Oregon authors we love: Curl up with a good book by these Oregon authors. Start reading here.
Moments of Zen: 20-minute videos offering a break from working at home, or the world as a whole, take viewers to all seven regions around the state, including:
- A musical performance at the Painted Hills in Eastern Oregon
- Painting autumn colours en plein air at Lithia Park in Southern Oregon
- Watching waves lap the shore in Samuel H. Boardman State Park on the Oregon Coast
- Fly fishing on the Deschutes River in Central Oregon
- Chasing waterfalls at Salt Creek Falls in the Willamette Valley
- Touring the Portland Japanese Garden
- Relaxing fireside overlooking Mt. Hood and Mt. Hood Ski Bowl
Viewers can also virtually explore some of Oregon’s iconic sites in 360-degree video, including:
- Columbia River Gorge – the largest designated National Scenic Area in the U.S.
- Smith Rock State Park – the birthplace of U.S. sport climbing
- Southern Oregon Coast – part of the publicly owned People’s Coast
- Hellgate Canyon – the deepest river-carved gorge in the U.S.
- Portland Timbers – Oregon’s Major League Soccer team
- Anthony Lakes – 15 alpine lakes in the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon
- Oregon Coast Aquarium – a leading centre for marine education and top attraction in Newport
- Archery Summit Winery – one of Oregon’s 725 wineries, the most wineries per capita in the U.S.
- Mt. Bachelor – offering one of the longest ski seasons in America
- Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood — the only ski area in North America open year-round
- And if this doesn’t occupy the mind, and time, of armchair travellers, Oregon State Parks’ Whale Watching Centre in Depoe Bay is livestreaming whale watching.
- Skiers and snowboarders who’s time on the mountains was cut short can virtually hit the slopes from Spring skiing on Mt. Hood to exploring the backcountry in the Wallowas
- Cyclists can virtually ride Oregon’s scenic byways through wine country from the Tualatin Valley to the Willamette Valley, and beyond
- Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals offers a virtual tour for geology buffs