Money in the bank, rising vaccination rates, and the temptation of the outdoors all work together to attract visitors to summer travel to central Oregon. Already, resorts and hotels are filling up as travelers plan their summer trips. Most of these travelers come by car, according to the Automobile Association of America. There is pent-up demand, according to AAA, for road trips, whether it’s to get away from it all or just to see loved ones, but the situation isn’t all rosy for companies looking to re-engage. after a year of closings and reopenings. There is a labor shortage in the hospitality industry and businesses juggle their needs with changing government demands to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus as Deschutes County goes from a risk level to another. moderate to high risk, which limits the number of people inside to 25% of capacity.However, Bend is among Oregon’s most popular driving destinations, said Marie Dodds, director of government and AAA Public Affairs, in an email. Travel will also be encouraged by the recent announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated people can visit other fully vaccinated people without a mask or by maintaining a distance of 6 feet. plans to take family trips by car, and we’re also seeing a comeback as air travel bounces back, ”Dodds said. “Others are planning tailor-made trips. And many just want to travel to see loved ones and friends they weren’t able to see during the pandemic. Central Oregon is perfect for a physically remote getaway with its hiking, mountain biking and water sports, said Tony DeBone, Deschutes County Commission Chairman: With approximately 500 accommodations to book, the Sunriver Resort says it There has been a noticeable increase in booking requests from family travelers. Summer has traditionally been the busiest time of year for the resort; there were many activities that had to be halted at the start of the pandemic. “As the summer looks to be very busy, we are seeing a much shorter term demand right now,” said Lindsay Borkowski, Director of Sales and Marketing for Sunriver Resort. “We believe this will continue throughout the summer, as our customers can’t wait to travel again.” With more money in travelers’ pockets, more people will hit the road, said Damon Runberg, regional economist with the Oregon Department of Employment. This is particularly serious now, as more vaccines are rolled out to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, making people feel more comfortable traveling. “Travel expenses are a popular form of discretionary spending,” Runberg said. “Travel and tourism destinations accessible by car and offering more dispersed forms of recreation are likely to be more attractive to many this summer.” At the height of the pandemic just over a year ago, the town of Bend issued travel restrictions that lasted from mid-March to mid-October. Despite these restrictions, many travelers came to Bend last summer, said Kevney Dugan, CEO of Visit Bend. Hotel occupancy in the area fell at the start of the pandemic, but slowly rebounded last summer. , according to STR, a global travel analysis company. The occupancy rate of hotels during spring break this year was 77.6%, according to the data. During the week of March 21-28, during government-ordered COVID-19 shutdowns, it dropped to 19.9%. A comparison of hotel occupancy this spring break versus 2019 shows a 9% increase, said Dugan. “There is a lot of pent-up demand that will be released when people get vaccinated and can start traveling again,” Dugan said. “Destinations like Bend, where you can play outside all day, are a desirable type of travel. Weeks before the start of summer, Tumalo Creek and Kayak in the Old Mill neighborhood have been busy answering calls from potential visitors looking to book tours, boats and boards, said Sue Fox, a manager of the store. . “We definitely put people on the water and got calls about renting all kinds of equipment,” Fox said. “We anticipate that we will be busy this summer.” As the company begins to add staff, it may have difficulty finding qualified employees, said Todd Montgomery, director of the Oregon State University-Cascades residential hotel management program, who leads the program. The hospitality and recreation sector has been hit the hardest in terms of unemployment, according to labor reports produced by the Oregon Department of Employment. While other sectors of the economy have regained jobs lost due to closures linked to the pandemic, the leisure and hospitality sector has continued to lag. on the economy. That’s because many companies have chosen to let almost all of their staff go during closures related to the pandemic, Montgomery said. “It’s a national problem, but is definitely applicable to our community,” Montgomery said. “The labor shortage at Bend could be the worst we’ve ever seen in the travel industry.” At Tumalo Creek and Kayak, business will be near normal this summer, Fox said. Inner tube rentals will resume, boats and kayaks will be for rent and reservations will be required, Fox said. “It will be more normal than last year,” Fox said. “We won’t be doing our tours and events, but we will have on-site classes and a kids’ camp.” Keeping everyone outside will go a long way in keeping the community safe, DeBone said. But DeBone offered this advice: “Please come have fun and be respectful of the space,” he said. “Be respectful of each other and be in a crowded environment.” .