Jacksonville reports healthy tourist season

JACKSONVILLE — Lodging figures and the observations of local business owners suggest the town's summer tourist season was slightly better than last year, with some bright spots reported.

"We are definitely holding our own, if not doing a little better," said Sandi Torrey of the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Information Center.

Lodging tax revenue from July 1 through Sept. 30 was $29,980, up by $595 over the same period last year, according to information from City Treasurer Stacey McNichols, and well above 2009's $24,289 for the same time.

"This has been our most successful year to date," said Elan Guest Suites' Cherie Reneau, who has owned the three-suite operation with Duane Sturm for five years. "Month to month, each month was busier than the previous summer's."

June showed a 14 percent increase for the business, said Reneau, who doesn't have figures for subsequent months yet.

Reneau says a lot of repeat customers come for Britt Music Festival events and to tour the Applegate wineries. Britt reported total attendance was up 15 percent this year to 62,000.

"The Britt season seemed strong," said Bella Union restaurant owner Jerry Hayes. "It brought people to town. That was very good compared to the last couple of years."

Sales were up overall, with more tourists stopping in for lunch, said Hayes. Daily $6.50 pasta specials, started this year, were popular, he said.

"It seemed like a lot of people were walking the streets and it seemed like our lunch numbers were good," said Hayes.

After slow business in May and June, numbers were up over previous years at Segway of Jacksonville, said owner David Works.

Jacksonville Mercantile's David Jesser said he encountered a different type of tourist who was more interested in the culinary and wine offerings of the town and area.

"Realistically, I'd say the numbers were down, and the people who showed up have more disposable income," said Jesser.

Cooking classes offered for the first time this year by his wife, Constance, helped the store, which had a good summer, Jesser said.

Lodging tax revenues may not be a good way to judge tourism, says Jesser, who is also chairman of the Jacksonville Oregon Business Association. He says the town has only about 80 rooms and relies on tourist accommodations in nearby communities.

Torrey said visitors are looking for ways to save money while still traveling.

"More and more people are asking about RV sites and camping, but we don't have any," said Torrey. "The closest would be Cantrall-Buckley Park."

New restaurant operations in town did well, said Torrey, citing C Street Bistro and Mustard Seed, which changed ownership a year ago.

A monthly Saturdays in the Cemetery tour series also was successful, said Torrey. History still remains a strong draw, she added.

"On a daily basis I get questions on where's the museum and when will it be open," said Torrey.

Southern Oregon Historical Society closed the museum operation in the old County Courthouse in 2009 due to a lack of funding.

The Bella Union's Hayes reflected the cautious optimism of those interviewed.

"We feel like it's slowly building," said Hayes. "The economy is recovering slowly. It's not head over heels, but it's going in the right direction."

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