Beer, river rafting draw visitors

December 12, 2012
Beer, river rafting draw visitors

Latest Visit Bend survey quantifies activities tourists enjoy most

By Rachael Rees

Sipping beer along the Bend Ale Trail and floating down the Deschutes River has led to an increase in tourism, according to data released Tuesday.

Overall tourism in the city of Bend increased over the summer, based on lodging tax collections and occupancy rates, and the number of visitors from outside the state also went up, according to a 2012 summer survey conducted by RRC Associates, of Boulder, Colo., for Visit Bend, the city’s tourism promotion agency.

“In addition to the increase in tourists visiting Bend, they are also spending more money than they have in the recent past" said Doug La Placa, Visit Bend president and CEO.

Visitors also participated in various activities at different rates than they did when last surveyed in 2009. Dining showed the largest increase, with 70 percent of visitors dining out in the summer of 2012, compared to 56 percent in 2009, according to the survey.

Kinley Sbandati, co-owner of Trattoria Sbandati, an Italian restaurant on Northwest College Way, said while the restaurant industry had a couple of rough years, it is picking up.

“This summer we saw a huge rise in the amount of diners that came through our establishment ... We were full almost every day," she said, noting about half her customers were tourists. “It seems like the word is getting around about Bend."

While the research doesn’t explain the variance between 2009 and 2012, La Placa believes a rebound in the economy would affect visitors’ discretionary income when it comes to dining out while on vacation.

Participation in the Bend Ale Trail and the amount of brewery visits also increased, rising 12 percent over 2009, according to the survey.

“Over 25 percent of visitors coming into the Bend Visitor Center now are participating in the Bend Ale Trail," La Placa said. “Sixty thousand maps were printed last year, and they are all gone."

Bend was not simply a destination for beer lovers. Stand-up paddling, floating the river, kayaking and canoeing all gained in popularity between 2009 and 2012, and they are quickly becoming another staple visitor experience in Bend, La Placa said.

Those activities have been aided by the creation of the Deschutes Paddle Trail, which maps out the different lakes and rivers, by the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, he said. It also helped Visit Bend book the National Paddle Sports Conference in Bend for September 2013.

He said the reconstruction of the Colorado Street Dam to provide safe passage for floaters and whitewater for kayakers will likely increase participation in river activities. “With the growth of paddle sports that we are already seeing among visitors to Bend, any enhancements ... to the paddling assets in our destination are going to attract additional visitors to the area," he said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818,

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