Tourism Reawakens with Arica Sears | Friday HH
Beach season awakens. What is in store for coastal tourism?
On this Friday Happy Hour, Tyler Buckingham meets up for drinks with Arica Sears, host of ASPN's Big Tourism podcast, to discuss and reflect on the moment the tourism sector begins to reawaken after a year of pandemic. First up, Arica shares her assessment of the "tourism vibe" on the Oregon Coast (mimosa vs whiskey), as well as giving her assessment of level of urgency felt by tourism oriented businesses to open back up. Then, Arica and Tyler play a new game on the Friday Happy Hour podcast newly named "Catch or Release" where Arica is given the option to riff on the Tourism news stories currently featured on Coastal News Today. Check the stories out here:
Tyler Buckingham 0:00
Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of Friday happy hour the show where we shoot the breeze about whatever's on our mind. Of course over a few drinks, I am your host, Tyler Buckingham, and I am thrilled to be joined today by my good drinking buddy, Arica Sears, all the way from the Oregon coast. Arica, how are you doing today?
Arica Sears 0:22
I'm doing great cheers from a pretty rainy Oregon coast.
Tyler Buckingham 0:26
Well, cheers to you, Arica, it is my pleasure to be having a beverage with you today, a little happy hour time to talk about tourism. At an interesting time. Ladies and gentlemen, if you are paying attention to the world around you, you might have noticed that things are starting to wake back up. Coastal tourism economies around the country are gearing up for spring time. For those of us in the lower latitudes on the Texas coast. And I'm sure over in Florida and the Carolinas and maybe even over in California as well. There's a spring break, push people are getting out the young folks anyway, and are enjoying our coastal spaces the way they did maybe pre COVID. Even though we are certainly still in it, we have to report that tourism numbers are on their way back up. And that is certainly probably good news for businesses that have been running on on fumes here during the past year. But also, of course, we'd be remiss to say that we are not out of the woods yet on the COVID virus. So I have with me, Erica Sears, who is going to help color in a little bit about the tourism picture. And let's Erica, just start with your situation in Oregon. Can you tell me a little bit about what the vibe is right now one year after things kind of shut down? From a tourism perspective due to COVID-19?
Arica Sears 1:56
Yeah, and the vibe, it's it's as if you're drinking a mimosa and I'm drinking whiskey. Good. Things are looking up. But I would say it's a different kind of reawakening. It's not our usual like spring cleaning. Let's do this. It feels like I can't believe this has been a year. It's like waking up and you're not sure where you are. And you're kind of disoriented. And you're like, Okay, let's do this. But that being said, Yeah, I think we are seeing things waken up and in a positive way, especially at a federal level. You know, Biden is making these comments, like, if we keep it up, maybe you can have a barbecue with your friends and family for the Fourth of July, you know, hopefully all adults will have access to a vaccine by me. And so having that just feel so much better than this past year of like, please follow the rules, or else we're not sure what will happen. You know, now it's like, follow the rules, and we can get there. So, yeah, we're having businesses gearing up here for spring break. I think Washington, our neighbors to the north, their spring break is kind of this week. ish. And then Oregon's is next week. So land management agencies like state parks, hotels, everybody's gearing up to have, hopefully, good visitation.
Tyler Buckingham 3:18
So what I mean, how is the our communities after obviously, toward coastal tourism towns along the Oregon coast? I have to imagine, are feeling it pretty bad right now. I mean, how are how do they? How do they feel? I mean, our businesses shuttered up, or did they make it through? I mean, what's the general level of urgency here to get tourism reestablished? I mean, I'm not saying at pre COVID-19 levels, but you know, maybe getting close to maybe 80% of those levels, like, how desperate are our businesses and communities to re awaken that old economic engine?
Arica Sears 4:05
Yeah, I think it's an interesting so the Oregon coast is about 363 miles long. So it's a fairly large region. And the northern part of our coast is in what we call the Portland blast zone. So it's within a day's trip, a Portland's a pretty big area. So the north coast actually, which is to coastal counties, they have been beating 2020s Records, 2019 Records even last summer, we've had so much visitation and you know, if we look back to a year ago from this spring break, I remember hearing on this network of different stories around coastlines. Remember, we were all flooded with day trip visitors. Like we were like, we're shut down and I heard all these other coastal destinations were shut down because this thing COVID is happening. And still coastal destinations were flooded. And I think that's because people are naturally drawn to the ocean. They feel safer in beaches on coastlines because it's fresh air. They have more space. And so, you know, definitely numbers have been lower, especially on our southern Oregon coast, which is away from major airports. I think that coastlines and rural areas did a lot better of this past year than major urban areas like like the City of Portland, just because people wanted to find their own space and being outdoors.
Tyler Buckingham 5:23
And what is it? What's the vibe, like in the town where you live? You know, last we talked, I think we were doing a Friday happy hour, Erica, come to think of it. But we were talking about zoom towns, and how the pandemic had created kind of this new type of tourist, a long term visitor who might be spending a season or not a short term period of time, maybe maybe a week or longer several weeks, at a destination working there maybe relocating their family, at least for that period of time to that location. Hell, if the kids are doing school on zoom, and you're working from zoom, why not get out of the city? And is that? Are you still seeing that in your own community? And what's what's your assessment there?
Arica Sears 6:13
Yeah, so it's interesting for Oregon, after spring break, most of our schools are going back to in person sessions, or at least hybrid. So I'm gonna be interested to see what visitation looks like, as far as families that like you had just said, We're like, well, we might as well be homeschooling from the Oregon coast, rather than in a city with, you know, maybe no backyard or something. So we'll see how that trend changes. But it is an interesting thing, like I felt, I'm kind of like a silver lining person. I feel like this past year has shown us we've learned some really good lessons. And for us, we have a really long coastline. And when we try to have meetings in person, it might require someone to drive an hour or two hours round trip for like a 45 minute meeting. Because pre COVID, people weren't super stoked about virtual meetings or zoom. But now, like everyone's been using it for a year, their kids have been using it, they've been using it for work, I'm hoping there's some lessons like that, like, let's look at hybrid meetings, let's look at online meetings, because we've had more people attending them. And it's more accessible for that person that can't get away from their office for three hours, or has to pick up kids for you know, before dinner. So we'll see too, if maybe other people learn that lesson, like, hey, it turns out, I'm really effective working from home. So moving forward as the future, I'm going to actually live on the Oregon coast and continue working remotely from my job based in Portland. So we'll kind of see how zoom towns change and who kind of sticks with it. And if it's a generational thing to maybe it's younger generations that are sort of digging the zoom town scene.
Tyler Buckingham 7:45
Oh my god, Erica, you're gonna love this because it originates on LinkedIn. I was surfing. I was surfing LinkedIn, Pr Pr, an Erica serious special here. And I saw an article recently, and it was talking about what you were just referencing, which is pretty with millennials, my generation, I suppose you're probably a millennial, too. I am. And this is precisely what you're saying where there's been a this particular economist theorizes that there will be a permanent, or at least a long lasting relocation effect. Because of precisely what you said that it's it's twofold. It's one that businesses and employers are trained up and understand that good productive work can occur outside of the office, and also that two people know the the power of virtual meeting that you can convene people from, you know, as you say, the people's coast over there in Oregon is a long coastline. And it can take hours to traverse the whole thing. And if you've got a long drive, that's a that's a lot of productivity lost. And I do think that we learn something about how to maybe be a little bit more productive using our internet connections during this period of time. I don't think there's any doubt.
Arica Sears 9:10
I'm so happy you found that on LinkedIn, because as you and I know, I've really blossomed with my LinkedIn or the past year. It's been one of the ways that I feel like I get that kind of co worker energy that I haven't been able to get from meeting up and having in person meetings. So you'll have to send that article to me,
Tyler Buckingham 9:30
I will have to dig it up and maybe put it in the show notes. And that's a good this is a great opportunity to crack a beer out there, ladies and gentlemen. And make sure to follow coastal news today on LinkedIn, where we post at least 10 of our news stories every day in all of our podcasts now, we are increasing our LinkedIn presence because like you Erica, we really dig LinkedIn and we know that the professionals around the American shoreline have A lot to share and LinkedIn is a great place to do it.
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Tyler Buckingham 10:54
I want to play a game with Arica Sears called and this is we I'm batting around different names for this game. It was I was thinking we could do kind of a fishing thing like put it in the cooler or throw it back. Or I was thinking kind of a surfing theme like catch the wave or duck the wave? Do you have a naming preference? Erica, I leave it to you at this point.
Arica Sears 11:19
Wow, what an honor. I love I love even putting some thought into this. Like the catch and release is good.
Tyler Buckingham 11:25
That's right, catch and release. That's a good one right there. Catch and release.
Arica Sears 11:28
Yeah, let's catch and release some news articles.
Tyler Buckingham 11:30
Let's catch and release it. So this game Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to go down the tourism section of coastal News today.com. And we are going Erica will say catch it or release it. And if she says catch we're going to dive deep into a story if she says release we're moving on. So Erica, you ready to play?
Arica Sears 11:49
Let's do it.
Tyler Buckingham 11:50
Alright, so the first story story number one at the time of this recording, this could probably change by the time you listen to this is from the Cayman Islands, and it's dartz New Town threatens beach access. Do you want to explore that story? Erica?
Arica Sears 12:04
Yeah, let's do it.
Tyler Buckingham 12:05
All right, Erica, here's the deal in the Cayman Islands in Dart, which is apparently a municipality there, there is a plan to build a 157 acre development. And if this development goes through 10, historically used beach accesses that have been used by Caymanians for apparently generations will be lost. What are your thoughts on this issue from a tourism perspective?
Arica Sears 12:33
Yeah, deep inhale to start with, I think. So beach access is so important, especially to us on the Oregon coast. That's why we are branded as the people's coast because it is free and accessible to everyone. That being said, we're starting to see that the parking lots that are next to the beach, which you have to use to get to the beach, they're starting to implement payment and parking fees that could be up to $10 a day. So very sensitive, like I'm very sensitive to beach access. But I'm also sensitive to change. And so I think there's like two things going on here. One is like the change of having a new development, what does that mean for the community's identity? How much input was there from stakeholders? And what is what is the main you know, objection to having it is it the beach access. And then there's also the beach access point, like we can't take away local livability in order to bring in tourism, I think that often does not go well together. If if the tourism which should be the economic driver is not also benefiting locals, then you're gonna have some challenges. So super interesting story. Person dig some deeper digging
Tyler Buckingham 13:47
it is and I have to I'll be the first to admit that I do not know much about beach access rules in the Cayman Islands. But I do see here on the coastal news today.com story that this particular blockage is in the court system. And so there are apparently laws that either protect or govern how beach access is managed in the Cayman Islands. It will be interesting to track that of course. Stay tuned to coastal news today.com for more information that I'm sure we will post if when when it becomes available. Next story. catcher release Erica California from the great state of California State Parks wants to transform this central coast treasure into a tourist destination. This opinion writer says No way. You want to catch it or release it.
Arica Sears 14:45
Let's just catch it and see. Let's see what it is. Let's see what the beef is.
Tyler Buckingham 14:50
All right. Let's see what the beef is. It appears that what we have here is a development plan to add significant development to this park area, I believe it is called the osano dunes writing area and it would add 200 Rv campsites 100 drive in campsites and 20 cabins to this area. And where the beef is Erica is it appears that environmental groups along with the neighboring municipality in that area, are opposed to this because it they feel like this is going to bring in folks who are going to use this area. For off road vehicles, we're talking dirt bikes, ATVs, four wheelers and that sort of thing. And that that would degrade the ecosystem of this area, which is currently used, I should say not much seems like very few people kind of use it, but for birding, and more, shall we say environmentally soft, more friendly environmental experiences. So what are your thoughts on this story,
Arica Sears 16:03
I would say is not surprising, especially after this year, we've seen a huge demand on outdoor recreation resources. So I think it makes sense that a state agency would say we have more people than ever leaving urban areas trying to find outdoor recreation experiences. And I don't know what the capacity has been in California for state parks. But if they're looking for more areas, I could see like, Hey, here's an opportunity, let's possibly develop this. But I'm 40 Rv sites, like I'm sure anybody that's listening to this and you've been camping next an RV, it is loud, like they have a you know, they're like generator engine thing going. They're watching TV, and they're talking about 200.
Tyler Buckingham 16:43
Arica Sears 16:44
or 200. Yes. So that is a totally different experience. You know, that's not I could totally understand the community not being interested in that. And I wonder how the negotiations if there will be negotiations would go if all these advocacy groups and the communities that would benefit from it economically or against it, if at the state parks would be willing to back down and put in just camp, like normal tent sites or cabin sites, which people again, I think it's been really trendy. People want to have like their own little mini home or will cabin, which can might have less impact. So
Tyler Buckingham 17:22
yeah, it is, it's a tough one. And I happen to know that that region does have a history of going back several decades of people going there from all over the state of California to do the activities of like riding their ATVs what and whatnot on the sand. You know, it's really fun. I suppose I have never done it. But I know that it's, it looks really fun to be like buzzing along at high speeds in the soft sand. It looks really cool. But of course that is not good for the ecology of the dune system. In fact, I think it pretty much destroys everything. So it wouldn't surprise me if this is part of a larger negotiation. This is obviously a big deal with the state of California again, stay tuned to coastal news today to learn more about it. We will be tracking it moving along. Next story. Catch it or release it Erica coming from Hawaii, it's gonna be hard to say no to this one. Some Hawaii beaches may lose lifeguards as state runs short of cash. What do you think about that one?
Arica Sears 18:23
Let's catch it. What's going on with the life
Tyler Buckingham 18:25
I think we got to catch it was over three for three on catches. We're not doing a lot of releasing so far. But this one's pretty straightforward due to COVID-19. And the impacts that it had on Hawaii's state budget. lifeguards are being cut back. And what this makes me think of Erica is our late colleague, Dan Martin, who used to think all the time about the way that families would travel. But I know that, you know, when when when parents bring their kids and their family to the beach safety is a major concern, not surprisingly. And so I do think it might this might be a pattern that we'll see elsewhere outside of Hawaii, of course and around the American shoreline where local governments that normally would pay for a lifeguard program or maybe even a state program that's paying are going to have to cut back a little bit. What do you think? Do you think this is going to impact maybe family tourism?
Arica Sears 19:25
I think it will impact any kind of tourism. And so it's such a good point. As we're talking about tourism, it's making a comeback like Disneyland starting to open up again. We had the Super Bowl on the Grammys and people start getting really excited is that the transient lodging tax or the tourism tax audits, obviously it's different in every state. But a lot of times that money that's generated by tourists is what goes into city budgets. There's some cities on the Oregon coast where it's 40% of a city budget 80% of a city budget. So we also saw these cuts. We don't have life. guards on most of the coastline. But we do have like state park rangers that were on the beaches. And because there wasn't enough funding, they were taken off the beaches into like essential operations on campgrounds. So, things are reopening. But we still have maybe a lack of staff capacity for management agencies like lifeguards, State Park Rangers, people that provide services and information. So as you go back to your favorite destinations is not going to look the same, it's not going to feel the same. And you're not gonna have the same support as you did pre COVID. So I think this highlights it perfectly what that could look like,
Tyler Buckingham 20:38
great points, and I just have to plug our capital beach podcast and our waterlogged podcast that are focused on federal policy. But this is why that federal bailout for local governments is so important. Local governments cannot spend in a deficit. So when they run out of money, they just have to cut programs. And for so many of these American shoreline communities, whether they're in Hawaii, or Florida, or Maine or wherever, or Oregon, Erica, the budget has been utterly imploded by cut by this time. And, of course, we're confident that eventually things will come back. But in the meantime, I think you're 100% correct. Things will look differently. And a good reminder to keep an eye out on on the on your representative, your federal representative and see how they're acting with regard to providing federal aid and federal relief to local governments, because this is the kind of thing that that federal aid could fund. All right, Erica, I think we will do one more. What do you say one more catch. You can, you can pick whatever you want. I'm going to move now to South Carolina, we're in Folly Beach, they have banned smoking on the beach, to eliminate cigarette litter, catch it or release it.
Arica Sears 22:05
Let's release it.
Tyler Buckingham 22:07
I like it. I like it. We need at least one release good. You know, good stewardship, they're going to Canada. This is a good one. You're I'm going to say kind of extended neighbor to the north, at least kind of a close neighborhood. We're going to have Vancouver Island where the Vancouver Island tourism CEO says that the struggle to come back after COVID-19 will quote take years. Catch it or release it.
Arica Sears 22:32
Let's catch it.
Tyler Buckingham 22:33
You got it. Alright, so the deal here, Erica, is that the CEO of Vancouver Island tourism has reported that there have been some major major impacts due to COVID-19 as we might all imagine, and here are some statistics for our listeners to get an idea of what's going on here. In a pre COVID year, tourism generates about $3.5 billion and supports 70,000 jobs in Vancouver Island. And with the pandemic on only 17% of BC tourism businesses in the region have been operating as usual. 53% are operating at reduced capacity 30% of the businesses have closed at some time during the past year. And as a comparison, last July 39% of businesses reported losing 50% or more of their revenue compared to the same month in 2019. Well, that's a pretty gnarly COVID situation, Erica, but what's interesting about this article is not all the doom and gloom it's also the support in the form of the BC tourism resiliency network. This is kind of cool. This includes the Vancouver Island coastal tourism resiliency program. And what they have done is offered support to over 1700 registered registered British Columbia tourism businesses, including 435 on Vancouver Island, 201 women owned businesses 77 indigenous owned businesses. And 44 422, British Columbia tourism businesses were assisted by Canadian federal and provincial programs. Of course, this is all in Canada, our friends to the north? Erica, I'm just dying to know what your action is to this program. And to this story is just does this relate to you being an Oregon kind of close?
Arica Sears 24:37
Yeah, so I think it's interesting when we're looking at recovery and I think the title of this like, you know, the comeback will take years. And that's partially to because even as we're getting vaccines and there's these rollouts are restaurants and hotels, again, depending on what state you're in, have different capacities and reductions so they haven't been able to have all their time Fall, that means they can't have maybe four menus going on or their full staff. And so it does take a long time. Even when we hear the word, it's reopened, and I can go back to the destinations, not necessarily the same story for the businesses. So it is interesting to see, you know, the data like this toy is just like a, you know, a real punch to the gut to hear, you know, the amount of losses that have happened. I do have a stat for us, and we had a 500 billion loss in travel spending. So also big number, I'll match your big numbers with more big numbers take
Tyler Buckingham 25:40
that Canada 3.5 billion measly, but it's just been cool. You know, it's just been Coover Island. But nonetheless,
Arica Sears 25:48
it's not a it's not a competition. Don't be so American, Erica. But then the second part of this this resiliency network, I think this is like a really cool example of where tourism organizations can work together, and then provide support. So especially, maybe a Tourism Organization that's traditionally been a marketing entity couldn't market this past year, you know, at least if they're following the rules, like you shouldn't be marketing out of state and saying, like, Hey, bring you and your whole COVID sick family to our town. That wasn't happening. And so I think we saw successful scenarios where these marketing entities started doing more supports and developments. In Oregon, our state Tourism Organization did a program called destination ready program. And they just awarded $913,000 to projects across the state. And so those were projects, like, we need more trash cans in our city, because we had more people visiting and there's more to go boxes than ever, right. Our trash cans could not manage the amount of to go boxes, or we need an ADA kayak launch because of this outdoor recreation strain. So there are there's really excellent examples. And I think the states, those of us that have tourism organizations to be that support, and that can be flexible with the times. It's like, excellent. We're so lucky.
Tyler Buckingham 27:12
Definitely. And I you know, Erica, first of all, let me just say it's been an absolute pleasure spending this Friday, happy hour with you, and you raise some just excellent points, but the most important is, well, this Friday, happy hour is called tourism reawakens, we should remember that we are coming into recovery. And we're not going to just immediately snap back to any sort of pre COVID-19 existence, we have a lot of recovery to do. We have gone through a major, major historic event on the American shoreline that has impacted many of our critical sectors of economic activity and engines that the people who live and work and recreate on the American shoreline rely on and it is going to take a recovery process to get back just like it does after a major storm on the American shoreline. We will it will take maybe in fact, years but the important thing is we will take steps along the way to make sure we get through it together. Erica Sears any final final thoughts on this show?
Arica Sears 28:24
Yes, I have to share this quote with you. Please do. Okay. So, um, for those of you who don't know, Eventbrite, yes, the online event system has a pretty good newsletter that gives updates about events going on around the United States, and especially during COVID like what's happening, what's not happening, you know, trends. And so, Texas, as some of us may know, lifted all restrictions. That's Tyler's cool, I don't even have done. You just wipe your hands clean.
Tyler Buckingham 28:57
We're just it's like a whole new day over here. Although I should say that that's actually not true. We are still those of us in Austin and in the blueberry, we're still putting our masks on.
Arica Sears 29:08
Well, here we go. So this is a quote from this newsletter. Okay, so he's lifting restrictions in Texas, including mask mandates and restrictions on public gatherings. However, some music venue owners and workers are fighting back and remaining partially or fully opened or fully closed. Austin venue, Mohawk. Do you know that venue do you go to
Tyler Buckingham 29:29
Arica Sears 29:32
They tweeted, Thanks, bro. But we ain't gonna do it till it's safe.
Tyler Buckingham 29:37
That's very awesome. I love it. Oh, hey, listen, we try. We try not to bro out too hard here. But in this particular case, I think I can get behind it.
Arica Sears 29:46
Yeah, so that's kind of the vibe that you know, that's about maybe half Americans are kind of feeling that way. And that's part of sort of this big question mark about travel is this people are still like, thanks for all the work you're doing. Let's look Good, but still not doing it until it's safe. And how do we decide when it's safe? So there's my there's my there's my wrap up for you.
Tyler Buckingham 30:08
Well, Erica, I really appreciate it. I think that's a great point. And I would reiterate it for all of our listeners out there, please continue to be safe, continue to mask up, if you are out there and of course, get vaccinated. And if you are going out there and enjoying a beach, or anywhere else, for that matter, please continue to be a good citizen and protect other people around you. It will help us recover faster if we do that. And that's the key. And don't don't do as the Texas Governor suggested we still have a ways to go. With that. Ladies and gentlemen, a final cheers from me, the Toastmaster of this Friday. Happy Hour and have a fantastic weekend and we will be back with you next week for more great stuff on the American shoreline Podcast Network.