In Portland, tourists are everywhere. Visitor spending here reached an all-time high last year.
But political violence also increased, thanks to regularly scheduled extremist brawls that police have struggled to control. Last week, the Rose City saw a spike of negative coverage, after antifascists assaulted a conservative journalist and unsubstantiated rumors flew about milkshakes laced with quick-drying concrete.
Does that bad publicity take a toll on Portland tourism? The city's visitors bureau says people are threatening to cancel their trips.
"We've had multiple calls and emails from people throughout the country saying they no longer want to come to Portland as a vacation destination," said Marcus Hibdon, spokesman for Travel Portland, on Wednesday. Some of them, he said, either threatened to cancel or claimed to already have canceled previously planned trips to the city.
Whether or not that's true "is difficult for Travel Portland to discern," Hibdon says. "We don't want to make conjecture or draw conclusions based on that, although we've heard from people around the country."
Approximately half of the calls, Hibdon added, were simply people who said they'd planned trips to Portland—either this holiday weekend or later on throughout the summer—and expressed legitimate safety concerns. After being told that the protest was isolated to a specific instance and a scheduled set of demonstrations, their concerns seemed to be alleviated.
A spokesperson for regional government Metro confirmed that there were no recent cancellations of events at Portland Expo Center or Oregon Convention Center. And Hibdon was unable to report any decline in accommodation or flight bookings, as that data isn't reported by hotels or airlines to Travel Portland in real time.
So is Portland tourism taking a brawl-related hit? It's unclear.
Any long-term effects of negative news coverage, Hibdon says, remain to be seen. But the general trend in tourism for the Portland metro area has been one of growth, with no decline in sight. Despite negative coverage during several years' worth of protests, he points out, "We've still seen growth in tourism jobs, in overall spending, in numbers of travelers, in airport data, in hotel booking rates… if some of the protests [in past years] had a negative effect, that was overpowered by tremendous interest by the general population."