Lane County Travel Spending Drops Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Brian Rooney

September 13, 2021

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. As a result, data from research firm Dean Runyan shows that spending in Lane County’s travel and tourism industry dropped 49.7% from $1.0 billion in 2019 to $523.4 million in 2020, a level not seen since 2003.

The graph below shows that travel spending in Lane County grew throughout the 1990s and peaked in 2008 at $717.0 million. As the Great Recession took hold in 2009, travel spending dropped $39.7 million, or 5.5%, to reach $677.3 million. Since then, travel spending has grown each year, topping $1 billion for the first time in 2018 and growing into 2019 before dropping due to the pandemic.

The growth rate over the recovery period between 2009 and 2019 was 53.7%, which was well ahead of the U.S. inflation rate of 19.2%, showing that travel spending growth was strong before the pandemic, even adjusted for inflation.

All Oregon counties experienced a decline in travel spending in 2020. Despite the decline, Lane County had the third highest level of direct travel spending of Oregon’s 36 counties. Multnomah County was first with $1.7 billion and Deschutes was second with $547.6 million.
The largest share of visitor spending by commodity in Lane County in 2020 was in food service (25.7%) followed by accommodations (24.1%); local transportation and gas (13.7%); retail sales (11.5%); food stores (10.5%); arts, entertainment, and recreation (7.9%); and visitor air transportation (6.6%). The largest drop in visitor spending between 2019 and 2020 was in arts, entertainment, and recreation (-66.3%) while the least was in accommodations (-31.1%).

Most travel spending occurred in the eastern portion of the county, which includes the Eugene-Springfield area, at $464.4 million (88.7%). The remaining $59.0 million of travel spending occurred in the coastal portion of the county.

Employment estimates show that the travel industry is rebounding in 2021. Employment growth in the leisure and hospitality industry is up from April 2020 to April 2021 by 4,900, or 57%. In addition, according to Travel Oregon, the occupancy rate at Willamette Valley region hotels is up 42.4% from July 2020 to 77.5% in July 2021.


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