We've been doing everything we can to drive home the messaging of Seaside being more than just a day at the beach.
Jon Rahl, Seaside Visitors Bureau director of tourism and marketing
SEASIDE The beginning of the summer tourist season got a jump start Friday, May 25 with retailers seeing more visitors in town early for the Memorial Day holiday the typical kickoff of the summer tourism season.
People filled up the stores, restaurants and hotels throughout the city and area attractions like the bumper cars on Broadway and the go-carts on U.S. Highway 101 also did brisk business through the holiday weekend.
Mark Alley and Joan Toito from Seattle were taking in the sights at the Seaside Carousel Mall.
This is the first time Ive been to Seaside, Alley said. I am celebrating my birthday here.
Toito has visited Seaside before.
I am spending about the same amount of money here as I have in past visits, she said.
Mike Jones, from Battleground, Washington was also making a return visit to Seaside.
We like the downtown here, Jones said. Lincoln City and the other coast towns are all spread out. They arent pedestrian friendly. We always come back to Seaside because it is pedestrian friendly. We can get to everything on foot.
Jones said because of the economy he is spending less this vacation.
We try to save were we can, he said. Its a nickel here and a dime there.
A young couple from Salem with their two year old child in tow said they too are watching their budget, but planned to spend about the same as they did in previous visits to the North Coast.
According to the Seaside Visitors Bureau, the average visitor to the city will spend about $140 a day.
The good weather we've experienced in April and May has definitely raised expectations about the summer tourist season, said Jon Rahl, Seaside Visitors Bureau tourism and marketing director. But in addition to seeing the increases, many lodging partners have told us they've seen a slight uptick in early bookings. That's a good sign.
Rahl said the bed tax receipts from July - September in Seaside have seen modest decreases during each of the past three years (-3.1 percent in 2009, -.4 percent in 2010 and 2.3 percent in 2011). Approximately 4045 percent of all bed tax is collected between the months of July and September.
If the first five months are any indication where numbers have been up about 3-4 percent, we should have a very good summer, Rahl said.
Retailers say weather is the driving force for tourism in Seaside. When the sun is out, stores fill up. When it rains, fewer people come to town. This summer raising gasoline prices are also a concern for most local businesses.
But I think the fact that people can drive to and from the coast on as little as a half tank of gas helps our destination as we look at the large population base we draw from in Portland, Rahl said. The consensus is that folks are still going to travel. Overall trip length (number of nights) may continue to be smaller than we came to expect as recently as 4-5 years ago, but if the spring visitation we've seen in Seaside is any indication (and we've already had several days that felt like busy summer days) then I believe the outlook is still very strong.
According to the Visitors Bureau, Seaside will continue to appeal to families, but recreation seekers are also finding their way to the community to kayak or canoe in rivers that flow through Seaside.
If you add hiking to the mix, we appeal to a large base of people, Rahl said. With the addition of the Seaside Brewing Company openong in June, we'll add yet another great asset to those interested in Craft Beers along Oregon's North Coast. The North Coast Craft Beer Trail now includes 11 stops from Astoria to Cannon Beach.
We've been doing everything we can to drive home the messaging of Seaside being more than just a day at the beach, Rahl said. Our spring radio advertising campaign in the Portland market focused on the recreational opportunities we have in our area and we partnered with Entercom radio and Next Adventure (a recreational outfitter in Portland) to give away nine recreation packages throughout the spring months.
A joint promotional campaign with the Seaside Visitors Bureau and the Astoria/Warrenton Chamber of Commerce and a $10,000 grant from Travel Oregon is helping to promote the entire North Coast
We believe we have strong assets throughout Clatsop County and extending as far south as Tillamook and Pacific City, Rahl said. Our messaging is geared towards people creating new memories or rekindling old ones up and down the North coast, which we believe will help extend vacations to Seaside and neighboring cities.
Investors are also finding opportunities in Seaside. Two other restaurants have recently opened in downtown, Moodys Supper House at 20 N. Holladay and the Firehouse Grill at 841 Broadway.
It tells me that they believe Seaside is turning around from the slight dips we've experienced and they want to be a part of it, Rahl said.
Thomas McNeill, manager at Moodys Supper House, said the location was key for owner Jessica Karr in opening the new restaurant.
There is a lot of foot traffic here and we are right next to the hotels, he said.
Lori Breslauer, owner of the Firehouse Grill at 841 Broadway, said the improving economy helped attract her to Seaside.
We have only been open for five weeks, but we are doing well, she said.