Portland In the Toilet – Hotels Lose as Liberal City Declines
Considered a liberal haven in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon’s key city of Portland is losing businesses to an epidemic of crime, drugs, and homelessness in the downtown area. Now, many hotels are reportedly struggling to generate enough revenue to stay in business.
While the COVID-19 health emergency and lockdowns were blamed for the nosedive of the hospitality industry in popular destinations, many were quick to recover from the big worldwide bump in travel and tourism after the first year of the pandemic. These included hotels on Oregon’s coast. But not so with Portland where recovery remained painfully slow. And it was more than the big health scare inflicting it on the city.
In April 2021, KGW8 of NBC News reported that destruction from the 2020 protests, which were carried out for months by leftist activists in the city, was partly responsible for low occupancy of Portland hotels. The story cited Benson Hotel Managing Director George Schweitzer on the reasons behind this lag and wrote:
But hoteliers say trash, tents, boarded up windows and last summer’s unrest are keeping visitors away. Schweitzer said guests tell him so.
The hotels most affected were in the downtown and the Lloyd District areas of the city, as reported in the story.
More than two years down the road, things haven’t changed for downtown Portland, not for better at least. Many businesses left the city due to the endless decay of downtown with mentally unwell and/or drug addicted homeless people filling the streets. In winter, the poor and sick homeless people are seen riding the local light rail back and forth between various stations only to escape the cold outside.
In June this year, according to Portland Tribune, the City Council documented “lackluster recovery” in 2023 with a loss of $100 million to the hotel industry as compared to its pre-pandemic revenue.
As reported in The Seattle Times (September 18), travel industry in Portland is going thorugh an ongoing crisis and the city’s tourism office blames the “perceptions of downtown” for it:
Hotels in Portland’s central city sold 1.2 million rooms in the first seven months of 2023, according to hotel industry data firm STR. That’s down 20% from 2019.
Travel Portland CEO Jeff Miller was cited in the story telling that visitors are wary of Portland because of the accounts of the city’s homelessness and drug addiction published in national media. Many prominent hotels are right around the corner from miserable scenes of distressed and homeless people, tents on sides of the streets, and open abuse of drugs by addicts. Local people and visitors don’t feel safe either.
“Visitor sentiment is not improving, and we know the reputational damage being done has the potential to last if we don’t seek quick action to make our streets safer.”