By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Earlier this month, the Bend City Manager issued an advisory discouraging vacation travel here to slow the spread of coronavirus.
But are people staying away? Anecdotally, the town appears as busy as ever.
New data suggest there are fewer vacationers in town, while more locals taking staycations to appear to be filling in the gap.
Hotels in Bend were at about 70% of capacity the fourth week of July according to Visit Bend, the destination marketing agency that normally promotes tourism but has been discouraging it since early this year.
Hotels were busier in June than July–and both months were well below last year–suggesting that maybe some visitors are staying away.
However, there are notable peaks of hotel occupancy over weekends, followed by steep drops in occupancy during the week.
What hasn’t changed is people enjoy visiting Bend.
“I do feel safe here,” said Bretton Beach from Colton, Oregon. He is in town for a wedding. “What is it, Wednesday? There’s not too many people out and it’s very nice.”
But some of the crowd is local.
“It’s a little less busy. A lot less people rafting, floating down the river,” said Dan Guilfoy, Bend. “The surf wave is nice and safe because they are only allowing eight guys out at a time.”
The Bend Parks & Recreation District has three trail counters around the whitewater park.
They recorded a spike of 7,000 floaters on the 4th of July; and 17,000 people passed through that three day weekend.
The whitewater park trail count numbers indicate the first part of summer has been as busy as previous summers and appear to confirm weekend spikes in hotel occupancy.
“Sometimes it feels when we come down here it’s more crowded than I would expect but, overall, I think less crowded,” said Ashley South, who was enjoying the sandy beach at McKay Park.
“Certainly less this year than previous,” added Mark South.
“We pulled in about two days ago. We have felt very safe. People are so kind,” said Clint Dupin of San Ramon, California. “Every restaurant or place that we visit, they uphold the restrictions and they make certain that people are safe in every area.”
With hotel numbers lagging from last year, the crowded rivers and trails appear to be busy with your neighbors, not necessarily tourists, exploring their own backyard.