PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As the Rose City assess the economic damage from the pandemic, the city lost out on $5 billion dollars in travel-related spending had trends continued from before the pandemic.

In 2019, Travel Portland reports tourism-related spending was pegged at $5.6 billion in 2019, but dropped to $2.4 Billion. In a sign of potential recovery, $3.7 Billion was generated in travel-related spending in 2021.

Downtown hotels usually bring in more than two-thirds the hotel revenue in the city, but hotel booking has dropped in half since 2019 and it could be years before the city is back to being fully booked.

A measure of tourism activity, Travel Portland’s share of the lodging tax has tracked a decrease from $6.9 million generated in 2019 to $1.7 million generated in 2021.

Travel Portland hopes a return of business-related travel will help the recovery along.

“The Central City relies on business travel, conventions and that has been lower to recover than leisure has, which is why these statistics are so much less.” Jeff Miller, the CEO and President of Travel Portland, said.

Miller presented the situation to City Council on Wednesday. Commissioner Mingus Mapps pointed to 40,000 jobs in the city supported by the tourism industry.

“That’s been a huge hit to our economy and that has been a huge hit to the small businesses and BIPOC communities that are on the front line of our city’s hospitality industry,” Mapps explained.

Travel Portland thinks it could take until 2024 at the earliest to fully recover, though Miller says that’s on the long-range of the estimate, telling the council, “we’re hedging our bets, we’ve been burned before.”

Miller finds hope in the sentiment of potential visitors. The agency has been conducting research on how prospective visitors feel about a trip to Portland. 44 percent of respondents said a vacation to Portland sounded ‘appealing,’ up from 32 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020. Similarly, 37 percent of people said a vacation to the city was ‘unappealing’ and that number has dropped to 24 percent.

“When we asked potential visitors what came to mind when they thought about Portland, too often was homicides and homelessness. The damage done by COVID and the damage done by our reputation decimated our local hospitality industry,” Mapps said.

But there is some optimism for hotel demand Downtown and in the Lloyd District. After demand dropped drastically in 2020, there was a substantial increase in 2021.

Travel Portland President and CEO Jeff Miller explained “revenue is coming back, we are still significantly below where we were for revenue in 2019 because of the lack of rooms sold, but recovery is indeed happening and we’re excited about that.”

To that point, revenue has come back 158% year to date for spring 2022 — a faster rate that tracked over the last two years.  

Miller says, in addition to recovering business travel, leniency around international flight protocols into the United States would help bring visitors from abroad to Portland.