2018 Travel Spending in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler Counties

by Dallas Fridley

August 22, 2019

Dean Runyan Associates (www.deanrunyan.com) recently released Oregon Travel Impacts, a study detailing the significance of the travel industry in Oregon and its 36 counties. According to the study, direct travel spending in Oregon reached $12.3 billion in 2018.
Overnight visitors to Gilliam County logged 69,300 person-nights in 2018. More than one out of 10 persons (10.1%) staying overnight in Gilliam County during 2018 were visitors, not residents – that was also true for Sherman County (13.3%) and Wheeler County (14.6%). Lincoln County led Oregon, with a ratio of nearly three overnight visitors for every 10 residents (27.8%). Person-nights in Sherman County reached 86,000 in 2018, and Wheeler County’s totaled 73,000.

Oregon’s metro counties captured $9.3 billion or three out of four travel dollars in 2018 while rural counties earned $3.0 billion. Metro counties were less dependent on travel generated employment, with travel spending in urban Oregon (Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Deschutes, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Washington, and Yamhill counties), producing almost 4 percent of its 2017 total employment. In rural Oregon counties, travel spending generated nearly 12 percent of jobs in 2017. In Gilliam County, travel spending generated 3.9 percent of its 2017 employment total – not too different from urban Oregon’s experience. Similarly, travel spending in Sherman County produced 4.1 percent of its 2017 employment, about the same as Wheeler County’s 4.2 percent.

Direct travel spending in Gilliam County totaled $4.7 million in 2018 – an increase of $0.2 million or 3.4 percent compared with 2017’s $4.5 million. Overnight visitors represented the biggest slice of travel spending, shelling out $3.2 million in 2018. Food services led visitor spending in Gilliam County, at $1.3 million, followed closely by accommodations, at $1.0 million. Together, accommodation and food services captured just over half (52%) of Gilliam County’s 2018 destination spending. Food stores captured $0.7 million in visitor spending (16%), while arts, entertainment and recreation generated $0.6 million and retail raked in $0.5 million.
Direct travel spending in Sherman County rose to $5.5 million in 2018, an increase of 3.1 percent or $0.2 million over 2017. Overnight visitors spent $4.1 million. Accommodations alone brought in $1.6 million or 30 percent. Food services followed closely with $1.4 million in visitor spending (26%), while arts, entertainment and recreation captured $0.8 million (15%).

Wheeler County’s travel spending totaled $3.1 million in 2018, an increase of 3.5 percent or $0.1 million over 2017. Overnight visitors spent $2.1 million with food services grabbing the biggest slice, at $0.8 million or 28 percent. Visitor spending in accommodations ranked second, at $0.6 million (21%). Arts, entertainment and recreation totaled $0.4 million and food stores also brought in $0.4 million (14%).

Accommodation and food services dominated Gilliam County’s 2018 travel employment trends, producing 30 out of 50 jobs generated by travel spending across all industries. Travel spending generated 10 jobs in arts, entertainment and recreation and retail (includes gasoline) produced 10. Travel spending supported 60 jobs in Sherman County led by accommodation and food services, with 40. In Wheeler County, travel spending generated 40 jobs led by accommodation and food services with 30.
Overnight travelers spent about $114 in Gilliam County per person, averaging $47 per day over a 2.4 night length of stay. In Sherman County, overnight travelers spend $109 per person, while Wheeler County’s overnight visitors spent $77. Overnight traveler expenditures in the hotel, motel and short-term vacation rental (STVR) group were quite similar for each county, ranging from $368 to $373 per trip, while the average party size was 2.5 persons.


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