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Medford hotels bounce back

Medford hotels are on the rebound after taking it on the chin in early 2020 when the pandemic struck.

“Year over year, we were down 11.7%,” said Eli Matthews, vice president of Travel Medford. “It could have been a lot worse.”

During the first few months of the pandemic, hotels saw a huge hit, but during the last four months of 2020 occupancy surged 9% over the previous year, helping the industry recover.

December saw a 14.8% increase, helping take the sting out of losses from earlier in 2020.

Matthews said hotel operators expect to see an even greater rebound by this summer if the pandemic can be brought under control.

Matthews said Medford has three things going for it that helped offset what could have been a much worse year for hotels, particularly the significant drop in business last March.

“It was a rough couple of months for everybody,” he said.

Almeda fire victims helped fill hotels, along with insurance adjusters, Red Cross workers and government agencies.

An Airbnb-type rental tax started last summer, bringing in an extra $50,000 a month in hotel tax revenues.

Medford also has a growing population and has more people migrating in from other parts of the country, helping fill hotels.

Matthews said many people from other parts of the state came to Medford over the past year, escaping from more populated areas such as Portland.

The city depends on taxes collected by hotels, and last year the city increased its transient lodging tax from 9% to 11%.

For fiscal year 2019-2020, Travel Medford received $968,000 from transient taxes, compared to 2018-2019, when it received $1,062,000. The fiscal year starts in July.

“We were planning and budgeting for much less,” Matthews said.

The lodging tax budgeted to Travel Medford, which markets this area, represents a quarter of the transient lodging taxes collected by the city.

The transient lodging taxes will also help pay a portion of the $60 million for the new Rogue Credit Union Community Complex, with two indoor pools planned for the Wes Howard Community Park in west Medford.

City officials hope the new sports complex will help fill hotels as effectively as U.S. Cellular Community Park.

Medford has 2,658 rooms available at hotels and other facilities.

At least two hotels will open in the near future, the Fairfield Inn and Suites with 92 rooms and MyPlace with 85 rooms.

Another hotel, the 111-room Compass by Margaritaville Hotel, is being built on the Coquille Indian Tribe’s property on South Pacific Highway.

Other hotels are in the works, including a 110-room extended stay Marriott in the downtown. But the Inn at the Commons will be converted from a hotel to a 123-room apartment complex in the near future.

Brad Niva, executive director of Travel Southern Oregon, said the region weathered 2020 better than other regions, such as Portland, which saw a 50% decline in occupancy.

Jackson County, with 69 hotels, was down 22.8% last year compared to 2019.

Niva said Medford was also helped early in the pandemic because U.S. Cellular Community Park stayed busy hosting ballgames from California and other areas.

Josephine County was down 9.4% last year compared to 2019, Douglas County dropped 17.8% and Klamath County took a 22% hit.

Since September, the region has rebounded pretty dramatically, he said.

“Southern Oregon has done far better,” Niva said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune The Fairfield is under construction in South Medford.