Travel Lane County: Local tourism not affected by recent wildfires

This year, Westlund believes business has been pouring into Lane County because of people visiting to avoid smoke in other parts of the state.

Posted: Aug 27, 2018 9:01 PM
Updated: Aug 28, 2018 8:19 PM

LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- Travel Lane County officials don't believe wildfire smoke has negatively impacted tourism in Lane County.

Kari Westlund, President and CEO of Travel Lane County, said last year, people were asking for the best routes to leave the state due to intense wildfire smoke. 

This year, Westlund believes business has been pouring into Lane County because of people visiting to avoid smoke in other parts of the state. 

According to a Travel Oregon study, the state lost $51 million in tourism revenue last year because of the smoke. 

Westlund said businesses along the McKenzie River corridor were hit the hardest. 

She said they don't have any reason to believe smoke has had a negative impact on tourism this year. 

She said if anything -- business has increased. 

"It's been almost a complete reversal," Westlund said. "Not a great scenario in either, because we don't want any part of Oregon on fire, but we really haven't seen our local tourism diminish this year. If anything, it's probably increased because some other parts of the state had some pretty significant impacts."

Westlund said even with the Terwilliger Fire burning at Cougar Reservoir, people have no reason to cancel their outdoor activities along the McKenzie River corridor because the fire is burning south of it.

Troy Potter, the owner of The Beer Stein in Downtown Eugene, said every morning he wakes up and checks air quality so he knows how to accommodate his customers. 

Potter said about 20 percent of his business comes from people who live out of town. He said business has been quiet this year, and he attributes that to wildfire smoke. 

"People ride bikes here from local hotels and things like that and so we lost a lot of that business and so not just tourists, but our regular customers who come here frequently," Potter said. "Because the smoke was so bad, it's just really unhealthy to be outside."

As for the impact the fires have on tourism, Westlund said no one knows the impact better than the business owners themselves. 

"I wouldn't want to dispute something that someone is experiencing especially if they have a sense to what the correlation is," Westlund said. "If he's feeling it and he's hearing it, then that's what's happening." 

Westlund encourages people to not cancel their travel plans based on misconceptions. 

For the latest fire alerts, air quality and traffic information, you can visit Travel Lane County's website

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