By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Bend City Manager Eric King last week issued a new administrative order discouraging travel to Bend and hotels were “strongly requested to refrain” from booking new reservations until Labor Day.
But it’s business as usual for some lodging properties as it appears they’re putting the onus on visitors to decide whether they want to vacation here.
Calls to eight Bend hotels over the weekend and Monday revealed reservation clerks were more than happy to book rooms in mid-August.
Mayor Sally Russell said she was “disappointed.”
“I understand compliance would be better for our community,” she said. “Some of my colleagues on council had asked for some data, so here’s some data.”
We asked each hotel clerk about travel restrictions to Bend, and while a few acknowledged there has been a “recommendation” to limit occupancy, all stopped short of saying out-of-town visitors were discouraged.
One said the order was a “suggestion”, another clerk referred to King’s “memo” but said, “businesses certainly don’t agree” and yet another said “there are no travel restrictions whatsoever.”
And one concierge was excited about passing along his favorite trails to a new Bend visitor.
“If we aren’t going to have compliance, certainly we should be looking at next steps.” – Bend Mayor Sally Russell.
Later Monday, Central Oregon Daily’s Meghan Glova tried speaking to GMs, managers or marketing directors at a half dozen of those hotels to get their reaction, but calls were not returned and one property referred us to their Washington-based lawyer.
Calls were made to The Oxford Hotel, Riverhouse on the Deschutes, Super 8, Springhill Suites by Mariott Bend, Hampton Inn and Suites, Best Western Premier Peppertree Inn at Bend, Signature Bend and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bend.
All had availability in mid-August and all were ready to book.
According to King’s order, which was announced July 15th and went into effect two days later, “operators of temporary lodging facilities are strongly requested to refrain from booking any new reservations for tourist or vacation accommodation, and only book reservations needed for health, safety, or employment or other permitted essential travel.”
“If we aren’t going to have compliance, certainly we should be looking at next steps,” Russell said.
King hoped businesses would do the right thing, saying he knows people will continue traveling to Bend this summer, “we’re just trying to temper that a bit.”
“We’re just asking for some cooperation at this point,” he said.
He called the order “a message,” to potential visitors to think twice about coming here and to hotel operators about booking new rooms.
The state’s face covering mandates and a recent social distancing/mask crackdown by the OLCC are part of the message “helping to get our business community and our institutions really aligned to create a culture of compliance here.”
“We’re hoping all these help our residents and our visitors to create a safe place, but sometimes that isn’t enough and additional measures are necessary,” King said. “We’re not there yet.”
The issue was covered extensively by all Central Oregon news outlets and the City of Bend posted about it on its social media channels so officials have no doubt local hoteliers are aware of the order and the COVID situation in Central Oregon.
Ben Hemson, the city’s business advocate, said he planned to reach out to them in a more direct manner as well.
“It’s not surprising but it’s going to be something we’re going to have to pay a lot of attention to over the next couple of weeks to really clear up some of that confusion around this as well,” he said.
Russell said more teeth might need to be added to the order, especially after Deschutes County reported 43 new cases since Friday and currently has 134 active cases.
“Clearly we hadn’t seen the numbers yet that we saw over the weekend when we made the order,” she said, adding that several local restaurants have had to shut down due to staff coming down with COVID or being exposed to someone who had it.
She said councilors will meet again on Thursday.
“We could vote for enforcement. This is a state issue and a county issue, but it’s falling on the city’s shoulders at the moment,” she said. “What are the steps we need to take to keep this economy on its feet and our community healthy?”