Demand for rooms in Southern Oregon motels, hotels improves

Bargain-hunting travelers have found Southern Oregon a good spot for overnight stays this summer.

Oregon lodging statistics compiled by Smith Travel Research for the Oregon Tourism Commission showed attractive rates prompted a 1 percent increase in demand for rooms locally in July. That's compared with a drop of 2.8 percent statewide and a 4.3 percent decrease nationally.

"Our occupancy, in most cases, is slightly better than last year," said Paul Schmidt, the general manager of Medford Airport Courtyard by Marriott and Central Point's Fairfield Inn. "Our daily rate dropped, but given the market conditions, that had to drop."

In five of the six categories tracked by Smith Travel, Southern Oregon hotels and motels showed improvements in July over the year-to-date trend. When it comes to rates, Southern Oregon was second-lowest out of the state's seven regions both in July and for the year. Eastern Oregon is the state's low-rate leader. Southern Oregon's room rates are about $16 below the national average.

While room rates dropped 2.8 percent year-over-year in July, room revenue — a statistic closely monitored by tourism officials — fell just 1.8 percent. Oregon saw a 10.5 percent room revenue decline and it plunged 13 percent nationally.

"Room demand is very strong, but the number we focus on is room revenue," said Carolyn Hill, Southern Oregon Visitors Association's chief executive. "Give the economic circumstances we're in right now, it's like hitting a home run."

Schmidt said there is more give at some properties than others.

"Courtyard was the rate leader for most of last year," he said. "All the hotels have come down, but the range has grown smaller between the economy hotels and others. We want to fill rooms and that makes it more attractive to both leisure and business travelers."

While he hasn't seen much difference in the number of shuttles going to the airport, Schmidt said growing activity at Medford's U.S. Cellular Community Park has kept Marriott's two south Medford properties — Towneplace Suites and Springhill Suites — hopping.

"We get some of the overflow up here on large tournaments," he said. "But most of what we get is tied to what goes on at the fairgrounds."

Fuel prices have stayed below the $3 mark this year, playing a role in the local industry's relative success.

"That's one factor that's kept travel pretty healthy," Hill said. "We've seen rates fall more precipitously in urban areas where they relied on business travel. They've aggressively dropped rates and focused on capturing market share. But you can only drop rates so far before you start losing money on your rooms. I give a lot of credit to the hotels here holding their rates."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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