As a popular Oregon Coast destination, Lincoln City relies on its tourism industry to help promote the local economy and sustain the livability of the community.
The News Guard continues to monitor the driving factors of tourism and its impact, up or down, in our city. To gain insight into the 2021 spring and summer tourist season, we check in from time to time with Explore Lincoln City Director Ed Dreistadt.
The following conversation is our latest update.
The News Guard: Briefly describe the 2021 spring and summer tourist season in Lincoln City? Robust or Bust? Up or Down, and what percentages can you share with us?
Ed Dreistadt: As you know, our most solid numbers are the revenue figures reported by our lodging properties which the city uses to calculate the Transient Room Tax. The story they tell is amazing.
While it’s fun to see things like the 4,559% increase in April this year versus 2020, that is comparing this year to last year when the short-term lodging ban was in effect. A more accurate way of looking at 2021 is to compare it to 2019, our last pre-COVID year.
Here’s how those numbers look:
- January +61%
- February +73%
- March +35%
- April +71%
- May +35%
- June +50%
2021, through the end of June, revenue reported by our lodging properties is 55% ahead of 2019, which is robust indeed.
Note that these numbers don’t necessarily mean more people in town. The STR Global survey of hotels shows that the occupancy of Lincoln City hotels is up a bit, but the biggest change is in the average daily rate our hotels can charge because of the high demand.
What we are seeing is that the attractiveness of Lincoln City is allowing our properties to charge premium rates, with the average amount spent per person going above what we saw during the eclipse.
The News Guard: What were the driving factors over the spring and summer tourism season in Lincoln City that led to the increase/decrease over previous years?
Dreistadt: The pandemic, of course, is the overarching factor. In many other tourism destinations, COVID-19 has had a devastating effect. Portland, for example, lost their international visitors, business meetings and conventions to COVID-19 concerns. Their occupancy fell dramatically and they have yet to recover.
Lincoln City, however, doesn’t have an airport, convention center or many properties that cater to business meetings. We are a destination for families in the spring and summer, plus empty nesters in the fall. The desire to travel hasn’t lessened during the pandemic, but guests want to feel safe when they go on vacation.
People have been reluctant to fly or go on a cruise. They find themselves blocked from visiting other countries. A lot of our tourism competition has been dropped from people’s consideration set.
What they want the most is a vacation destination that is perceived as rural, uncrowded with outdoor adventure and a beach at hand. Lincoln City matches what they desire exactly.
The News Guard: Who came to the city and why?
Half of our guests come from Portland and the balance of the Willamette Valley. Another 20% come from Washington State. The balance is from all over. Most of our guests drive here from relatively nearby so they can enjoy our seven miles of beach and wealth of outdoor activities and to explore our seven miles of town.
For over a year, we have been letting our guests know that we are a town that takes COVID-19 seriously. We expect everyone to wear a mask, be courteous and safe. Our public relations and promotional efforts have emphasized safe activities like drive-in movies and boat-in concerts while also showing that our citizens and businesses are resilient, generous and caring in the face of a pandemic and wildfire.
A big reason people have come here is that we are seen as a safe vacation spot, with plenty of room on our beach to stay distant, no places with crowds of people, lots of outdoor activities and an expectation for everyone to wear a mask, practice social distancing and be courteous to one another.
The News Guard: Briefly, what is your forecast for fall and winter tourism in Lincoln City?
Dreistadt: We are continuing to see above average interest in Lincoln City via our website and social media channels. We’re looking forward to a record fall and winter. Interestingly, we are starting to see more inquiries from Northern California than we’ve seen in the past. We’re trying to determine if those inquiries will turn into visits.
The News Guard: What are the signals/factors you are watching closely?
Dreistadt: We’re continuing to monitor our Occupancy and Average Daily Rate numbers to see if the rush of business and increased revenue per person will continue through the winter. We also talk to businesses in town to get their read on what guests say and how business is trending.
One caution we have is that demand could fall when we finally begin to come out from under the pandemic and travel options open up again. Or, we may find that so many new people have been introduced to Lincoln City that the visitation and popularity that came about during COVID-19 continues.
We are looking at every indicator we have available to see how things will go when the pandemic eases.
The News Guard: Briefly, describe the range of events designed to bring in tourists this fall and winter that the city is conducting and/or that businesses are conducting.
Dreistadt: We’re getting ready to send out press releases and story pitches about our Halloween offerings, including the Kiwanis Spooky Spectacular Drive-Through Trick or Treat experience, Haunted Taft walking ghost tour, Cheeky Cauldron special Halloween offerings and Lincoln City Archery’s Live Action Zombie Apocalypse.
Following that, Explore Lincoln City is working with Lincoln City Parks & Recreation to wrap Taft Dock with holiday lights. Every city-owned lamppost will be wrapped with solar-powered LED holiday lights. A partnership comprising the Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce and Lincoln City Parks and Recreation will result in crab pot holiday trees, provided by fishermen in Depoe Bay, in at least three different locations in town.
Businesses will also be approached by Explore Lincoln City with an offer to fund the purchase of holiday lights. Funding is available for an estimated 30 businesses to participate. This will be the first step in lighting Lincoln City for the holidays, with a program designed to increase the number of lights every year for the next four - five years.
We’re currently about to launch an enhancement of Finders Keepers where those who register a float get an unexpected prize. The prizes are from the Economic Relief awards early in the pandemic that were funded by Explore Lincoln City reserve funds. Renamed Invest & Recover Program, our collection of pre-paid goods & services will be used to create many, many more promotions like this in the future. This will be a fun way to reinforce the Lincoln City Brand of our city delivering the unexpected.
Additional city-wide food promotions, similar to the Secret Takeout Menu program are in the works. What we’re finding, though, is that our restaurants need a little bit of a breather before taking on a special promotion. You’ll see some fun restaurant promotions starting in first quarter.
Our goal is to enhance Lincoln City as a holiday destination for families.