Tourism is on the upswing in Clark County, and that should continue to rise, according to the latest annual report from Visit Vancouver USA.
Visitors spent $472 million in 2016, a rise from $451 million the year before, a 4.7 percent increase. The numbers aren’t skyrocketing, but more like parading uphill, tourism officials say. For comparison, tourists spent $402 million in 2010 and $273 million in 2000.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth since the recession,” said Jacob Schmidt, director of marketing for Visit Vancouver USA. However, 2014 to 2015 saw a drop of $29 million that Schmidt attributed to a drop in fuel costs which is also decreased the costs of some goods.
Those numbers are sure to rise, he added. Ilani Casino Resort, a massive entertainment complex just 16 miles north of Portland, opened in April 2017. And this summer will welcome the first restaurants at The Waterfront Vancouver.
When the waterfront opens to the public, it will surely become the centerpiece of Visit Vancouver USA’s efforts, said Kim Bennett, the agency’s president.
Visitor spending in Clark County in millions of dollars:
“We’re certainly going to utilize that for a lot of group business we already attract,” she said. “It’s something new for them to experience: new dining options, new views of the Columbia River they haven’t been able to experience before.”
Two restaurant buildings, a 90-foot pier and a park are expected to open at The Waterfront Vancouver in July. The projects are being jointly led by the city of Vancouver and Gramor Development, based in Tualatin, Ore.
Restaurants typically make the biggest splash for tourism spending, followed by lodging and retail. Visitor spending on food and drink has risen from $98.5 million in 2010 to $123.2 million in 2016, a 25 percent increase.
Hotel developers seem to be feeling especially confident. There are 11 proposed hotels in Clark County, including one at Ilani Casino Resort, three near the waterfront and a handful out in east Vancouver.
Whether all 11 hotels can be built remains to be seen. And while some will be in direct competition, there will be several niches targeted, Schmidt and Bennett said.