H&LA Development Update: Portland, Oregon

H&LA’s recent research for a project in Portland, Oregon revealed some exciting new hospitality-related developments happening in the area. These developments will have a major impact on tourism, employment, and the general economy in Portland and the surrounding areas in 2021 and beyond. On-going pandemic concerns may alter timelines for some of these projects.

  • Throughout much of 2020, downtown Portland experienced ongoing protests, demonstrations, and other forms of civil unrest, all of which have damaged the city’s reputation as a leisure travel destination. Travel Portland, the area’s official destination marketing organization, recently released the results of a survey of 1,250 potential travelers nationwide which indicated that 69% of respondents had seen Portland portrayed negatively in the media, and 37% said they considered the city an unappealing vacation destination. While these perceptions may make for a tough road ahead for downtown hotels, guests’ reluctance to stay downtown could benefit hotels near the airport and in other parts of the metro area.
  • A long-range effort to improve public access to Willamette Falls is now underway near the confluence of the Willamette and Clackamas Rivers, south of Portland. The first phase of this effort will include habitat restoration and riverside walkway improvements. The work is being done through collaboration between civic leaders and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, which purchased the property in 2019. A $12.5 million scenic overlook, considered a centerpiece of the project, will be added in a future phase. Once fully completed, this project is expected to boost tourist visitation to the area.
  • A new 21.6-mile passenger ferry system dubbed the Frog Ferry has been proposed in greater Portland that would include nine stops from Vancouver to Oregon City, passing through downtown Portland and utilizing sections of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Advocates of the plan estimate that it would cost $40 million to establish and could carry up to 3,000 riders per day. The Frog Ferry plan is currently in the proposal stage, and it remains unclear when it will come to fruition.
  • In 2021, the Oaks Park amusement park in Portland will reopen with a new attraction called AtmosFEAR. Billed as “Oregon’s most extreme thrill ride to date,” AtmosFEAR will feature a giant swinging pendulum that carries riders to a height of 100 feet before swinging back down toward the earth. This represents the park’s latest major investment and comes about one year after it was forced to cancel its 2020 season due to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • In October 2019, a new attraction called the North American Bigfoot Center opened in Boring, Oregon, about 20 miles southeast of Portland. This unique new museum capitalizes on the area’s reputation for frequent Bigfoot sightings and features footprint casts, Native American artifacts, a gift shop, and a life-size animatronic Bigfoot named Murphy.
  • The Mount Hood Meadows ski resort, about 50 miles southeast of Portland, recently opened a new 23,500-square-foot lodge called Sahale on the southeast side of the mountain, adjacent to the South Lodge. The Sahale building now houses the resort’s learning and rental centers, along with a new restaurant and bar. This $15 million project marked the first major commercial improvement at the property since the expansion of the South Lodge in 1999.
  • A major expansion is now underway at the ilani Casino Resort in Ridgefield, Washington, north of Portland. This $30 million project will create a new 14-story hotel, two new restaurants, and about 17,000 square feet of additional gaming space. Operated by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, the ilani Casino Resort first opened in 2017, making it the newest casino in the region.