Tourism in Your Community

Oregonians talk about what they think of tourism and how it impacts their communities in both positive and negative ways.

Beach at dusk with many bonfires

From May 4th through 10th, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including their thoughts about tourism and its impact on Oregon communities. This online survey consisted of 918 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Responses were analyzed and categorized to allow for a better understanding of trends in Oregonians’ values and beliefs. The survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.9% to ±3.2% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question. Findings will include a citation of the relevant question, which can be referenced in the annotated questionnaire and tabs at the bottom of the page.

Tourism’s Contributions: Positive and Negative

  • When asked how much tourism contributes to a randomized list of potential outcomes, Oregonians are most likely to believe it contributes a lot or somewhat to “a strong economy” (68%) and “traffic congestion” (63%). This makes up the top tier of outcomes, followed by “well-paying jobs” (50%) and “funding for public services” (50%) in tier two. No other outcome reached 50% (Q36-42).  
  • Oregonians ages 18-29 are less likely to think tourism contributes to a strong economy than their older counterparts (56% vs. 69-74%). This dynamic was flipped for the belief that tourism contributes to traffic congestion, with those ages 18-29 more likely than older Oregonians to believe it does (70% vs. 57-63%). Men and women tend to be in strong agreement on these outcomes (Q36-42).

Thoughts About Tourism

Oregonians were asked, in an open-ended format, what comes to mind when they think of tourism in general. Responses varied, with many participants viewing tourism as a mixed bag, but some common themes emerged, including these positive associations: benefits for the local economy, the draw of Oregon’s outdoors, seeing new places and having new experiences, and a return to normalcy post-pandemic. There are also some negative associations: increased traffic, crowds, risk of wildfires, and trash/litter. Below are some representative quotes (Q35).

“A pro and a con together. It gives our state income for small businesses, but it is annoying to deal with the added crowds during the summer.”

Female, age 45-64, Native American or American Indian, Lincoln County

“An opportunity for people to explore and experience new things while adding to the local economy.”

Male, age 30-44, Marion County, white

“I think tourism has positives and negatives to it. I think a positive side of it is helping local businesses stay open. A negative side would be sometimes tourist do not respect our land here or may be unaware of certain precautions in areas.”

Female, age 30-44, Maron County, white

“I think tourism can help drive an economy if it is managed well. I am proud of my state and I want others to experience its beauty too. We have many things to see here, and I want a diversity of people visiting and living here.”

Non-binary or gender non-conforming, age 45-64, Washington County, white

Tourism in Oregon This Year

  • A plurality of Oregonians (41%) believes more Oregonians this coming year will stay within the state for their vacations resulting in more people visiting their community, compared to 27% who disagree and 32% who are unsure. The high unsure rate is likely due to the pandemic and a lack of clarity about what COVID-19 restrictions and health risks will look like in the coming months. Demographic differences are modest on this question (Q43).
  • Oregonians who responded that they believe more Oregonians will visit their community in the coming year are overwhelmingly positive about the prospect, with 76% saying they feel very or somewhat positive about it. Only two in ten (19%) feel very/somewhat negative about more Oregonians visiting their community. As before, demographic differences are minimal on this question. For example, men and women hold nearly identically positive views overall (76% vs. 75%), though men are slightly more likely to feel “very positive” (41% vs. 33%) (Q44).

Why Oregonians Feel Positively or Negatively About Tourism in Their Communities

Respondents who say they feel either positive or negative about having more Oregonians visit their community were asked, in an open-ended format, why they feel that way. Reasons that resonated earlier in the survey were also top-of-mind here. For example, positive impressions center on benefits for the local economy, the benefits of travel in general, and the pride and respect Oregonians hold for the state’s scenic beauty. Negative responses dealt with concerns over traffic and crowding, trash and littering, the risks of COVID spread, and other public safety concerns. Below are some representative quotes (Q45-46).

Positive Opinions:

“We need a boost in the economy, especially if we want to bring the country back to where it needs to be.”

Male, age 30-44, Jackson County, white

“It is a beautiful place, why not share it, plus they bring in much needed money.”

Female, age 65+, Jackson County, white

“I think travel in general is good. We shouldn’t limit who is allowed to visit and see what Oregon has to offer.”

Female, age 18-29, Lane County, Middle Eastern or North African

“People from Oregon will respect it more.”

Male, age 45-64, Benton County, white

Negative Opinions:

“Because they cause problems when they come to my small town, leaving their garbage all over the beach, and don’t appreciate the town or it’s people. They think because they come from another town they can take advantage of us, which they do, even though they are spending money. They don’t care how dirty they leave the town.”

Female, age 65+, Tillamook County, Native American or American Indian

“Because they are bringing sickness and are not wearing masks or taking precautions.”

Female, age 45-64, Clatsop County, white

“Tourists bring too much traffic and then they return and buy property creating more problems.”

Male, age 65+, Deschutes County, white

“It’s already too many. Gridlocked roads. Public indecency. Drinking and drugs. No respect for private property. Overwhelming emergency resources.”

Female, age 65+, Tillamook County, other ethnicity

Demographic Trends

Identifying what unites us, understanding what divides us.

  • Oregonians of color and white Oregonians disagree on several questions about tourism in their community. For example, whites are more likely than Oregonians of color to believe that tourism contributes to a strong economy for their community (70% vs. 55%). Conversely, Oregonians of color are more likely than whites to believe that tourism contributes to a lack of affordable housing (53% vs. 43%) and homelessness (41% vs. 29%) in their community (Q37-38, Q40).
  • However, there are areas of agreement. Oregonians of color and white Oregonians agree that more Oregonians this coming year will stay within the state for their vacations at nearly equal rates (45% and 42%, respectively), however, whites tend to feel more positive about this outcome than Oregonians of color (77% vs. 66%) (Q43-44).
  • Demographic differences are also evident when comparing the opinions of urban and rural Oregonians. High percentages of urban (75%) and rural (67%) Oregonians believe that tourism contributes to a strong economy in their community, with a slightly higher rate for urbanites. This is also the case for the belief that tourism contributes to a lack of affordable housing (53% vs. 43%), which is perhaps unsurprising given rapidly increasing housing prices in Portland and other metro areas. Urban residents are also more likely than their rural counterparts to believe that tourism contributes to well-paying jobs in their community (58% vs. 46%) and that having more Oregonians visit their community is a positive thing (84% vs. 70%) (Q37-39, Q44).
  • Similar to demographic trends among Oregonians of color and white Oregonians, urban and rural Oregonians are roughly equal in their agreement that more Oregonians this coming year will stay within the state for their vacations (47% and 43%, respectively) (Q43).

This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, an independent and non-partisan organization. OVBC is an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation (

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Analysis and Reporting by: Ari Wubbold