Travel in the Mount Hood and Columbia River Gorge areas decreased significantly in 2020, with travel spending down 41.6 percent compared to 2019.

According to Travel Oregon, a state tourism agency, 2019 figures show $446.7 million in travel-related expenditures in 2019, compared to $260.9 million in 2020.

Employment directly related to travel declined 19 percent from 2019, with roughly 4,300 jobs in 2020.

This spring, Travel Oregon has awarded more than $2.4 million in grants for projects that promote economic recovery across the state.

Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood region grants include:

• The City of Maupin will received a $35,443.12 grant to improve outdoor space for dining and physical space for trip preparation for local raft companies. A second grant was awarded to the Maupin Area Chamber Endowment of $100,000 to install a regulation eight-lane polyurethane track and related spectator facilities replacing the current track located on South Wasco County School District property.

• Port of Cascade Locks received $99,998 for parking lot and trail improvements to ease congestion on the Easy CLIMB family-friendly mountain bike trail in Cascade Locks.

• Port of Hood River received $40,000 to improve the visitor experience by increasing safety and expanding water access and amenities along the Hood River waterfront.

• Port of The Dalles received $45,230 to improve safety and infrastructure, including launch ramp repairs and wayfinding enhancements at The Dalles Marina.

• Mt. Hood Outfitters received $12,760 to construct an onsite boat storage building to provide a safer and more efficient way for boat renters to have access to watercraft recreation at Trillium Lake.

The Oregon Tourism Commission, dba Travel Oregon awarded a total of $2,408,124 through its Competitive & Recovery Grant Program to support economic recovery by investing in projects that enhance and expand the visitor experience and prepare communities and visitors for COVID-19 safe travel.

For this grant cycle, Travel Oregon received more than 400 applications with a request greater than $18 million.

“These projects directly support Oregon’s tourism economy, from iconic Oregon attractions like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, to outdoor trail development, to retrofitting outdoor events to meet public health standards,” said Todd Davidson, CEO of Travel Oregon.

“Many of these entities have been closed or were unable to hold their event in the last year because of COVID. Our goal is to support these businesses, events and attractions as they operate safely, restore vibrancy and create economic stability in communities across the state,” Davidson added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted Oregon’s tourism economy. Dean Runyan & Associates’ preliminary Economic Impact of Travel in Oregon report finds that in 2020, employment related to travel declined by 22.1 percent and that total travel spending declined 49.5 percent from $12.8 billion in 2019 to $6.5 billion.

Travel Oregon has developed a variety of programs to support recovery in tourism-related and supported industries as part of the state’s larger economic recovery strategy.