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Survey shows mixed feelings about tourism among Oregonians

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By SUZANNE ROIG

Oregon Capital Bureau

Oregon’s natural beauty is the No.1 draw for visitors, but breweries, restaurants and shopping rank second, according to a survey by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. 

But with that attraction comes angst from residents who feel tourism makes biking, hiking, fishing and camping more difficult to enjoy, according to the May 6-12 survey of 1,674 residents 18 and older.

“More people are moving here, and there are already too many people,” said Daniel Olson, a 75-year-old-plus Deschutes County resident. “Ultimately it increases traffic and drives up costs, especially housing.”

Olson’s comments mirror the survey, where 61% of the respondents believe that tourism causes traffic in their community.

But two-thirds of those surveyed believed that tourism brings benefits, particularly economic ones, which is the same as when surveyed in 2021, according to the center.

“This is a most important industry in our area, but (we) can be overrun with tourists at times, making it difficult to move around the area and conduct necessary business especially for people my age,” Bob Finch, a 75-year-old-plus Deschutes County man, wrote in the open-ended questions. “We love this area and have learned to adjust to the busy conditions because a strong economy is necessary for the area to continue to grow and prosper.”  

It’s great that the majority of residents surveyed recognize the positive impact of tourism on an economy, said Kevney Dugan, Visit Bend CEO. In fact, the nonprofit marketing organization invests in research and partnerships, including one with Oregon State University-Cascades to learn more about how the community views the visitor industry.

“We recognize change can be hard to work through and our current influx of new residents and visitors to the state has created a new normal for all of us,” Dugan said.  “(We want) to better understand the community sentiment… while also working to reduce pain points that come with growth and change.”

Just about half of those surveyed supported a tourist fee for peak seasons that can be given to the affected communities. The survey showed that 51% believe tourism contributes funds to public services, 48% said it provided a high quality of life and 48% said it offered well-paying jobs.

Despite the criticism of tourism, most surveyed recognized the benefits to the state and foresee an increase in visitors this summer will be a positive for their community, according to the survey. 

About eight in 10 residents 75 and older say tourism contributes to a strong economy. But among the 18- to 29-year-olds that belief drops significantly to 58%, according to the survey.

“Some of the region’s best-known businesses were started by former tourists who moved here,” said Janet Stevens, a75-year-old-plus Deschutes County woman, wrote in an open-ended question. “That’s done wonders for the economy of a former timber town. Their impact goes beyond that, of course. More visitors mean more people to attend cultural events, which in turn help keep the latter in business.”

More than half of those surveyed in the under 30 age group — 56% — believe tourism contributed to the lack of affordable housing, according to the survey. But about 34% to 50% in all other age groups surveyed believe tourism is a contributing factor to the lack of affordable housing, according to the survey.

Of note is that one-third of those surveyed in the under 30 age group say recreational marijuana is a tourist draw, according to the survey.

Oregon Values & Beliefs Center methodology

The survey was conducted online among Oregonians 18 and older from professionally maintained online panels. The polling group said its surveys are within the statistically valid margin of error.

The nonprofit is building a large research panel of Oregonians to ensure that all voices are represented in discussions of public policy in a valid and statistically reliable way.

Selected panelists earn points for their participation, which can be redeemed for cash or donated to a charity. To learn more, visit oregonvbc.org/about-the-panel

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