I work downtown, and I’m getting tired of tourists asking me, “When do the Zoobombers go by?” or “Where are the famous food carts?” It seems to gets worse every day. Has Portlandia doomed us to be overrun by annoying sightseers?
Probably. I frequently find myself driving past Powell’s Books—arguably ground zero for Portland tourism—and the vast, bovine entitlement with which pedestrians in that neighborhood drift in and out of traffic, as uncomprehending and rudderless as jellyfish, is hard to miss. Literally.
In any case, Jeri, it’s not your imagination. Tourism in the Rose City (as measured by hotel revenue) has been spiking since 2010.
Travel Portland calculates that our 8.4 million visitors last year dropped a cool $4.2 billion into the local economy. I’d have more faith in that number if it weren’t so painfully clear that they just took the number of visitors and multiplied it by the wild-guess figure of $500, but whatever; I’m sure the economic benefit is real.
The question is whether all those tourist dollars are worth being treated like a costumed theme character in Quirkyland when you’re just trying to make it to fire-dancing practice. (The answer, unfortunately, is “yes,” but it’s still galling.)
Which raises the question: Has the time come for Portland to take its place in the pantheon of Real Cities that are rude to tourists? You know, like Paris, or New York, or Beijing—towns with the self-confidence to sneer at visitors, knowing those visitors will be back for more regardless.
Sure, Portlanders will probably never match the in-your-face brusqueness of Manhattanites, but we are the unquestioned masters of the condescending eye roll, and we’re in the top 10 for aggrieved foot-dragging and blank hipster stares. We could be real contenders.
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