Douglas County Travel Spending Rebounds from Pandemic Losses

by Brian Rooney

August 21, 2023

Travel spending grew rapidly in the two years following the pandemic. Preliminary data from research firm Dean Runyan shows travel spending in Douglas County reached $311.9 million in 2022, driven by traveler activity and higher prices. In 2021, travel industry rebounded to prepandemic levels, at $253.8 million. Travel was one of the hardest hit industries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health measures that restricted people being in close proximity reduced demand for travel related services including restaurants, large gatherings, and airline travel. Spending in Douglas County’s travel and tourism industry dropped 32% from $252.6 million in 2019 to $171.7 million in 2020, the lowest level since 2001.

The graph below shows that travel spending in Douglas County grew throughout the 1990s and peaked in 2008 at $216.4 million. As the Great Recession took hold in 2009, travel spending dropped $18.9 million, or 8.7%, to reach $197.5 million. Since then, travel spending has grown each year, reaching $252.6 million in 2019 before dropping due to the pandemic.

The growth rate over the recovery period between 2009 and 2019 was 55.1%, which was well ahead of the U.S. inflation rate of 19.2%, showing that travel spending growth was strong before the pandemic, even after adjusting for inflation.

All Oregon counties experienced an increase in travel spending in 2022. Douglas County had the 10th highest level of direct travel spending of Oregon’s 36 counties.  Multnomah County was first with $4.1 billion and Lane County was second with $1.4 billion.
Graph showing Douglas County Total Direct Travel Spending (Millions of Dollars)

The largest share of visitor spending by commodity in Douglas County in 2022 was in food service (31.1%) followed by accommodations (19.0%); arts, entertainment, and recreation (13.8%); retail sales (13.6%); food stores (11.8%); and local transportation and gas (10.5%). The largest increase in visitor spending between 2021 and 2022 was in local transportation and gas (36.8%) while the least was in accommodations (4.2%).

Most travel spending occurred in the eastern portion of the county, which includes the Roseburg area, at $243.8 million (78.2%). The remaining $68.1 million of travel spending occurred in the coastal portion of the county.

Douglas County employment attributed to travel spending follows a similar trend as travel spending. After dropping from 3,180 jobs in 2019 to 2,970 in 2020 for a loss of 6.6%, employment rebounded quickly to 3,210 jobs in 2021. The job gains continued in 2022 to reach 3,540 jobs, a gain of 10.3%.
Graph showing Total Direct Travel Employment in Douglas County

Douglas County’s travel employment as a share of total employment was 7% in 2022. This compares with 3% for the Willamette Valley Region and 20% for the Oregon Coast Region.

The most recent estimates from the Oregon Employment Department shows that employment in the travel-related leisure and hospitality industry continues to grow in Douglas County. Between June 2022 and June 2023, employment grew from 3,660 to 3,840 (180, 4.9%).

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