Bend tourism sets a record

Increased room-tax collections will boost winter marketing efforts

By Stephen Hamway / The Bulletin / @Shamway1

If you thought there were more visitors to Bend than usual during the summer months, you weren’t mistaken.

The city of Bend set a record for tourism revenue during its 2014-15 fiscal year, and those numbers continued into a record-breaking summer, according to information provided by Visit Bend, the city’s tourism-promotion agency.

“By far and away, this was the best year in Bend’s tourism history,” said Doug La Placa, president and CEO of Visit Bend, during the agency’s quarterly meeting Tuesday.

La Placa added that transient room tax collections — a key gauge of the tourism industry — finished the fiscal year at $6.37 million, a 37 percent rise over the 2013-14 year. Visit Bend’s fiscal year runs from July through June.

La Placa said once the collection figures were adjusted to account for increases in the lodging tax rate, the numbers represent a 23 percent rise over the previous year.

“By anyone’s standards, that’s an amazing year for the city’s tourism industry,” La Placa said.

The growth has continued into the new fiscal year as well. July saw more than $1.1 million in room-tax collections, a 23 percent uptick over the previous July and “by far the largest month of collections in Bend’s history,” according to La Placa.

“I didn’t think we had much more room to grow in July, and once again I was proven wrong,” he said.

The influx of money, particularly during the summer, allows the agency to sink more money into marketing during the fall, spring and winter seasons, which traditionally tend to be less busy portions of Bend’s tourism calendar. La Placa said the upcoming winter marketing campaign will be the most expensive in the agency’s history.

The agency is working with PorterCo, a Sacramento, California-based advertising agency, to target the northern half of California during its winter campaign. While the details for the campaign are still being ironed out, La Placa said after the meeting the budget for the campaign could be around $1 million.

Additionally, the agency’s funds were far enough over the projected budget for the fiscal year that the idea of a dedicated rainy-day fund was proposed. While the discussions were preliminary, there was enough interest for the proposal to be revisited at future meetings.

“We know that our economy is going to be cyclical,” La Placa said. “We know that at some point in the future, our economy will face another recession.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7818,