This summer has been a banner season, tourism industry employees reportAlthough Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, the North Coast tourism industry plans on steady business through October.

"After Labor Day, we do drop off a bit," said John Compere, associate director for the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce. "But, really, we have pretty good visitor counts through the end of September and, depending on the weather, into October."

This summer has been a banner season, tourism industry employees report.

Angela Bacon hands some gliders to her son, Alex, at the foot of the Astoria Column Monday. The family was visiting from Beaverton, and planned to ride the trolley and visit the Astoria docks.

HELEN WARRINER - The Daily Astorian"It's been a great summer," said Scott Dady, manager of both the Sandtrap and McBee Inns in Cannon Beach. "Most days we've opened up with only one or two vacancies and they would fill up very quickly."

Although exact numbers are not available, Compere reported that visitor counts for July and August are significantly higher than last year.

"We just took a monumental leap in visitor counts," Compere said. "I think there are a number of factors and the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial is a significant one."

The Seaside Chamber of Commerce staff also reported that they were up about 20 percent in calls requesting area information.

Many North Coast Lewis and Clark visitors started their journey in St. Louis, Mo., traveled across the United States and stopped at every Lewis and Clark historical site. Astoria Red Lion Inn General Manager Ken Bryan said that he thought that was one of the reasons the business had the best August since 1992.

"I think a lot of people just waited to go on vacation until later this year," he said. "And a lot of people waited to go fishing until August. Fishing is a really a mainstay of our business here."

National North Coast coverageAdditionally, the North Coast area has been featured in many national magazine and newspaper articles, Compere said. He believes the articles may have been the deciding factor for many people planning vacations.

Both Dady and Kathleen Noah, the innkeeper at Gearhart Ocean Inn, said that they had more guests from the Midwest, the East Coast and Florida. Many were eager to escape torrential rain, and most recently, electrical problems.

Compere said that many guests decided to stick closer to home this season and, in light of tough economic times, chose to drive rather than fly to vacation destinations.

But, at the same time, the North Coast sits in an advantageous position, Seaside Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ken Meiser said. It is close to two major airports, Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle and Portland International Airport.

The North Coast is also gaining recognition among the cruise industry as an excellent port of call. Passengers are given the opportunity to rate each town they visit, and those cities that do not receive a high rating are dropped from the itinerary. Astoria, and the North Coast area, regularly receive a high rating, Compere said.

Another benefit from cruise ship passengers is that after visiting the area for one day, many make plans to come back later in the season, increasing yearly visitor counts.

After Labor DayAfter Labor Day, the type of guests who visit the area changes, Noah said.

Gone are the families with children, visitors who have summers off like public school teachers. Instead, the majority of guests are childless couples and senior citizens. Campgrounds are filled with motor homes and larger travel trailers instead of tents and smaller recreational vehicles.

And chamber and city-sponsored events like this weekend's Hot Rod Happenin' in Seaside and simultaneous Rod Run in Long Beach, Wash. and October's Great Columbia Crossing in Astoria continue to bring in smaller amounts of visitors long after the summer season has ended.

"We've really been working hard on building the shoulder seasons," Meiser said. "And this year will be interesting because of the new Trendwest Resorts complex south of the Turnaround in Seaside.

"Of course, there's no crystal ball that tells us exactly how it's going to impact us during the rest of the year. But I think its going to be fantastic because it will hopefully keep a year-round vacationing presence going."

The resort includes 283 suites, of which 114 have been sold as fractional timeshare condominiums. Members of WorldMark, a club affiliated with Trendwest, use the remaining suites.