Portland tourism declines to record-low levels amid uptick in violent crime

This week, Travel Portland, a tourism promotion group that is partly taxpayer funded, presented data to the City Council and mayor showing that Portland has declined to its “lowest level” of being a likely destination for delegates to attend conferences. Only 64 percent of surveyed tourists said they would visit again. 

“There’s an old old saying, ‘It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and you can ruin it in an instant.’ That’s true of cities, as it is people,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler in response to the Travel Portland data. “And we’re just going to have to commit to that long-term process of improving the safety and the livability and the economic prosperity of the city.” 

The city had previously been known for its food scene, craft breweries, and nature-loving population. Unfortunately, after the last year, it has become characterized by months of protests, a homeless crisis and record year of homicides. In 2020, Portland became the epicenter of racial justice protests after the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. In the months following, the small downtown scene erupted with protests that frequently became violent, including clashes between demonstrators and federal agents. 

Violent protests have generally subsided, but there are still instances of some; earlier in October, during a vigil for an activist who was killed two years ago, a crowd of 100 people destroyed storefront windows, started fires in dumpsters, and caused at least $500,000 in damage to the area.

The data from Travel Portland shows over half of event planners and two-thirds of attendees indicated that their “likelihood” to book or attend meetings in Portland in the next two years had been heavily influenced by the “visibility” of social and racial protests.

Jeff Miller, the president and CEO of Travel Portland, commented, “The impact of this is that we likely won’t even get the opportunity to bid on many conventions for the next two years, which will affect our long-term successes well into the future.” 




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