Pamplin Media Group – Wilsonville hotel scene picks up, but still some way to go
Local restaurants and hotels have seen small increases in clientele lately, still far from pre-pandemic totals
For Wilsonville’s hospitality industry, circumstances have improved somewhat since the throes of 2020 – when much of the economy came to a standstill.
Yet even as the ranks of the vaccinated proliferate, the weather improves and people feel more comfortable patronizing local businesses, Wilsonville representatives told the spokesperson they did not plan a return to the normal for many months or even years.
“All of the estimates I’ve seen put the hospitality industry recovery at 2022 or 2023,” said Greg Astley, director of government affairs for the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association. “It is premature to say that we will be back to normal soon. I hope that when people get vaccinated in the past two months, travel will return to some pre-pandemic level.”
The impacts of tourism could persist
Considering the new Hilton Garden Inn to be the most upscale hotel in the area south of downtown Portland, owner Rohit Sharma expected Wilsonville’s lucrative industrial sector and other big business to be a major source of overnight stays.
This assumption did not materialize due to circumstances beyond his control. The hotel opened last summer and many large companies still work remotely and travel sparingly, he said.
According to statistics from the Oregon Tourism Commission, income from accommodation declined by about 33% from February 2020 to 2021. However, Sharma said activity increased by about 15% between the last quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.
“There was a recovery but not as much as we would like,” he said.
Beth Price, sales manager for the Wilsonville Holiday Inn, said that with employees from large companies working from home, the hotel was trying to expand to serve more local businesses.
On a positive note, Price said that for a long time the hotel has only attracted bookings for about a week, but has recently started seeing guests planning stays through December.
“People weren’t planning long term vacations or business trips. Every time we see that (bookings far away) we know that consumer confidence has gone up a lot,” she said.
Still, Price said tour packages were a major source of income before the pandemic and that she doesn’t expect those to return for at least a year.
Hotel officials and Astley, however, were cautiously optimistic about the impacts of the vaccine rollout.
“We certainly hope that people will feel comfortable (and) as more and more Oregon gets the vaccine, they can travel, be ready to go out and do what they did before.” the pandemic. We’ll have to see what each one does. comfortable with, ”Astley said.
Shortage of employees?
The virus and restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 aren’t the only concerns some have. Darren Harmon, general manager of Bullwinkle’s Wilsonville, said the staff at the entertainment complex was down by around 45 from the 125 it had before the pandemic, and that the complex in turn had reduced hours and on days of operation. The facility had to let staff go when it closed for months and Harmon surmised that many former employees had found other jobs, while some could benefit from unemployment. Astley backed up this claim, saying the operators he spoke to are desperate to find employees.
“You have a choice of the job if you want it,” Harmon said.
Attracting customers is not the problem for Bullwinkle. Harmon said the location has sometimes reached 50% capacity, so people have to wait to enter.
“The pent-up demand for everyone to go out and play and move around will decrease here in the next six months and the staff will start showing up as well. Hopefully by the summer that will stabilize,” Harmon said.
Restaurants are also slowly seeing more business
Curry’s Landing, one of the few restaurants in the community of Charbonneau, relies on the business of an aging resident population that is more vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19. This is one of the factors that made keeping the restaurant afloat a challenge for owner Cindy Grier.
Trier said she sometimes places an order on the roof of a customer’s car so there is no in-person interaction.
Meanwhile, she had to let many of her staff leave for long periods during the pandemic and operate only with her husband. Over 60 weeks was the norm. Grier said she owned three other restaurants and had worked at the company for 40 years, but had never experienced anything like this last year.
“I am very careful with my money. This has not been easy. I got PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) grants for loans. I’m doing everything I can to keep it going, ”she said. “I hope we don’t have to close. I hope it gets better.” Will I hold my breath? I’m not.”
While revenues were down 40% in 2020, Grier has recently seen an uptick and is hoping the community will sit inside and frequent the restaurant’s outdoor patio in the coming months depending on their level of comfort. .
“I think things will get better, but they do it every summer. Are we going to go back to a pre-pandemic situation? I don’t think so this year. It will take another year,” she said. “I think we will be stable this summer but I don’t know you will see people come out like you did three years ago.”
Bo Kwon, the owner of Koi Fusion, also had to let most of his staff go last year and hired a manager. He said business, which was down more than 50% in 2020, had grown by around 25% recently.
“I think it’s the combination of the weather and the people getting the vaccine. I think a lot of people are anxious to do something and go out to eat outside of normal delivery services,” he said. declared.
Astley would like to see government regulations move beyond current capacity limits to allow restaurants to serve as many customers as possible while maintaining social distancing. Trier said his restaurant’s capacity was limited to around 18 customers.
“As you continue to see more and more counties moving from extreme or high risk categories to moderate or low risk categories, they have more capacity for indoor dining and, as the weather improves, eating out, ”Astley said. “We’re starting to turn the corner, but we’re still not where it needs to be.”
Curry’s Landing owner Cindy Grier’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story
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