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County tourism on the rise

Washington County tourism continues to climb steadily upward, so much so that two new hotels — Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn and Suites — will add 271 guest rooms to the Hillsboro area alone.

Carolyn McCormick, president and CEO of the Washington County Visitors Association (WCVA), delivered an upbeat annual report and business plan to Washington County Commissioners July 15.

“It’s been a productive year,” said McCormick. “Business is up.”

An economic impact study showed that direct travel spending in the county was more than $518 million in 2013, an increase of 5.3 percent over 2012, she said.

“Tax receipts were up 12 percent” to $8.4 million, she added.

More than 2.7 million visitors stayed in the county for at least one night and spent an average of $388 each.

What do visitors do while in Washington County?

n Drive the 50-mile Vineyard and Valley Tour Route.

n Bicycle along the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway, which opened in September and taps into Oregon’s $400 million in annual recreational bike tourism.

n Attend events such as the Tualatin Crawfish Festival; the Dixie Mountain Grande Strawberry Festival; the Tigard Festival of Balloons; and the Washington County Fair and the Oregon International Airshow, both in Hillsboro.

n Explore the outdoors through nature walks, hiking, camping, bird-watching, fishing and canoeing.

n Golf at the county’s 12 courses, including the renowned Pumpkin Ridge near North Plains.

n Visit U-pick farms and farmer’s markets.

n Dine, shop, attend cultural events.

n Trek to the Venomous Reptile Museum in Tigard or the Rice Museum of Rocks and Minerals north of Hillsboro.

The WCVA, said McCormick, has broadened its marketing efforts to include 40 touch-screen kiosks placed in hotels and chambers of commerce.

And a visitors center will soon open on the first floor of The Round in Beaverton, a MAX transportation hub.

Sports tourism continued to be strong in the county, said McCormick — even during the economic downturn.

Tournaments and events in 2013-14 included a broad range of sports: tennis, soccer, cycling, longboarding, softball, golf, triathlons and a surprising new entry: cornhole.

“What’s cornhole?” asked Commissioner Roy Rogers, prompting a laugh from similarly puzzled audience members who had never heard of the beanbag-toss game that uses bags of dried corn.

“This is real, man,” said McCormick, smiling. “It’s in 22 states. We just had our state tournament with 100 players from all over Oregon. We bought the whole cornhole set.”

“I’m sure you did,” Rogers said.



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