Area tourist industry rebounds: recreational activities lead the list of high visitor volume
September 10, 1997
By PAUL MACOMBER
Tourism activity in Jackson County is showing signs of improvement after holding steady for several years.
Visitor industries are reporting gains of 5 to 13 percent from last summer’s activity, says Patti Bills, director of the Medford Visitors & Convention Bureau.
The strongest increases were in outdoor activities, which improved substantially from a mid-year survey that was dampened by a cool June.
Jet boats are among the businesses reporting improved business since June, Bills said.
Despite an increase in the entry fee, Crater Lake National Park reported 9 percent more visitors than last year. Mike Romick, marketing manager for the park, also said the Oregon Caves attendance increased by 3 to 5 percent and concession sales increased.
Valley of the Rogue Park’s use is up 13 percent so far this year, said Jim Hutton, assistant manager.
Visitors spent $171 million in Jackson County last year, according to the Oregon Economic Development Department.
“From about 1980, we were averaging an 8 or 9 percent increase in tourism each year,” Bills said.
“It went stale about the same time the California market went bad. The California economy is a major influence.”
Ashland has prospered this summer on a strong bill at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The downtown visitor center reported a 32 percent gain in visitors and the Siskiyou Visitor Center — with improved signs and rest rooms — drew 80 percent more people.
As of Sunday, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival had sold 95 percent of its capacity, said Amy Cuddy, director of communications.
“People responded very well to the choice of plays,” she said. “`King Lear,’ which ran all year, is a favorite, and there were other well-known productions such as `Death of a Salesman’ on the bill. There weren’t any bad ones in the bill.
“There was also some excitement because this was the first season with Libby Appel as artistic director,” she added. “She inherited last year’s program.”
Big-name entertainers at Britt Festivals contributed to record attendance at the Jacksonville attraction.
“Last year we had 60,283 and this year we will be well over 61,000,” said Carolyn Strayer, marketing assistant.
Elsewhere in Jacksonville, the visitor count and restaurant business improved from last year, but other spending declined, Bills said.
Motels, particularly the high-end properties, reported increases in business.
“Generally speaking, the Motel 6-type businesses — the moderately priced ones on the freeway interchange — are 98 percent full in the summer season,” she said. “People are looking for value. The people who are coming here are looking for a nice car drive, not a trip to Tahiti.”
The outlook for fall depends on the weather, which affects the traveling habits of the retirees who take to the road after summer, Bills said.
“We know the Jazz Jubilee ticket sales are up 4 percent from last year,” she added. That Medford event is held in early October.