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Against All Odds, Jeff Miller Is Optimistic About the Future of Downtown Portland Tourism

More than 18,500 news articles have featured Portland’s nightly protests and the resulting police brutality.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

Not a lot of people are planning Portland vacations these days.

The hotel occupancy rate in this city sits at an abysmal 27%. A pandemic has limited the capacity of dining and drinking establishments—as autumn settles over the city and patios shutter, some of the city's most acclaimed restaurateurs are ready to close their tills for good. And more than 18,500 news articles have featured Portland's nightly protests and the resulting police brutality. That's not something you can build a marketing campaign around.

Few people are more acutely aware of the obstacles Rose City tourism faces than Jeff Miller. As CEO of Travel Portland, he had to lay off 40% of his staff, and watched 80% of his lodging-tax funding vanish.

Yet Miller remains "bullish" on the future of Portland's downtown. In an interview, WW editor and publisher Mark Zusman asked the obvious question: Why?

In this conversation, Miller answers—and discusses whether a reputation for riots has rattled this city's close bond with Japanese tourists.