Central Oregon tourism has spring in its step

Businesses say shoulder season tourism on the rise

C.O. becoming spring travel hot spot

SUNRIVER, Ore. - We get the beer hounds and trail junkies in the summer, and the powder lovers in the winter.

But Central Oregon offers these activities nearly year-round -- and tourists are finally catching on to the attractions of what's often called the "shoulder seasons" of spring and fall.

"I've definitely seen a uptick in both those seasons," Get  It Shuttle and Tour Bend owner John Flannery said on Thursday.  "Whether it be in the fall after school starts, and in the Spring Break time, there's definitely been more people down for ski groups."

Flannery said more families from the Valley and neighboring states are planning mini-getaways to Central Oregon during their spring breaks.

"There's also a little bit of growth, for me in particular, in doing art tours and cultural tours," Flannery said.

And according to Discover Sunriver Vacation Owner Larry Browning, there's another reason to this spike in spring traveling: the Easter Bunny is a little early this year.

"Easter is falling early this year, so our March numbers are way up," Browning said.

Browning said his booking are up nearly 10 percent this spring -- in fact, he says he's likely looking forward to his biggest year since the recession hit.

"We've seen a lot of new clientele getting interested in Central Oregon," he said.

Browning is looking forward to the busy time -- and he says as it gets warmer, it only gets better.

"Our business is up 12 percent year to date," Browning said.  "The majority of those are summer bookings."

It's something Browning hasn't seen in years.  So far, he is up 20 percent from last summer's bookings.

"That's a really good sign, people are loosening up their pocketbooks and planning out farther ahead," he said.

It's good news that the economic recession could be setting in Central Oregon -- but Browning says he's learned a lot from the tough years and says there's no cutting corners.

"There's a lot going on in the area, a lot of things to sell, a lot of things people are interested in," he said.  "But we're not going to rest on our laurels. We need to keep working as hard as we have."

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