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Tourism spending rose to highest level last year

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The amount tourists spend in Northwest Oregon rose to its highest level last year, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Visitors spent $1.56 billion here in 2018. The previous record was $1.32 billion in 2006 (the amount has been adjusted for inflation).

Five northwest counties are included in the tally: Clatsop, Tillamook, Columbia, Lincoln and Benton.

“Complete records aren’t available for 2019 yet, but preliminary estimates indicate that about 380 more jobs are being added this year in leisure and hospitality in the five counties,” writes Erik Knoder, a regional economist with the Employment Department. “This matches the slower employment growth experienced overall in the economy in 2019.”

Of the five counties, Clatsop County had added the most leisure/hospitality jobs in 2018.

The 2018 spending increase was a jump of 1.4 percent over the previous year. Visitor spending has been increasing since 2011.

Last year’s growth was more than in 2017 but slower than in preceding years. Slower growth in an industry is typical as an economic expansion matures, and growth in visitor spending has been slowing since 2014.

Obviously, leisure and hospitality is affected the most in Clatsop County, but it also is the largest industry sector in Northwest Oregon. It provided nearly 16,700 payroll jobs on an annual average basis in 2018, or about 17 percent of all jobs.

“The industry’s health depends in large part on spending by visitors,” Knoder said.

Visitors also spend money in retail trade, transportation, and even health services when vacation accidents happen. But because visitors account for a smaller portion of spending in these industries, the leisure and hospitality sector is considered the bellwether for tourism.

Visitor spending has been up and down during the recession and recovery. It was $1.26 billion in 2011 and has climbed since then.

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