Tourism to spike in Corvallis during commencement weekend

People walk up and down the aisles of vending stalls at the Corvallis Saturday Farmers Market in Corvallis, Oregon, May 18.
People walk up and down the aisles of vending stalls at the Corvallis Saturday Farmers Market in Corvallis, Oregon, May 18.
Jules Wood

Proud families will flood the city of Corvallis beginning June 14 to celebrate graduating students, causing a massive influx in city tourism and filling local restaurants and hotels.

According to Christina Rekhlau, executive director of Visit Corvallis, the college town has 10 main hotels, from Best Western to the local Hotel Corvallis. These hotels contain 963 hotel rooms combined, not counting Airbnb and short-term rental options.

While this number is more than sufficient for normal weekend tourism, according to Rekhlau, the issues arise when every room in every hotel is booked months before commencement.

Rehklau said she enjoys commencement weekend, as there is additional energy and because there is an opportunity to show off the Corvallis community.

“When you have a fairly large graduating class, you have visiting family and friends, I would conservatively estimate for probably each graduate, you have probably about 2.5 additional visitors. So we definitely feel it downtown,” Rehklau said.

Last year, more than 7,300 students were expected to graduate, according to an Oregon State University press release.

Corvallis hotels range in location and distance from campus. The closest hotel to Oregon State University is the Hilton Garden Inn, located only a five-minute walk from Reser Stadium.

The Hilton Garden Inn is fully booked for the June weekend, so this priority location is off the table for many visitors booking last minute.

The second closest hotel location which is further in town, Corvallis Comfort Suites, yielded a similar result, with only one room available for the weekend.

For families still looking for housing during commencement weekend, Rekhlau advises looking beyond Corvallis. First, she said, look at Albany and Lebanon. If those options are unavailable, then perhaps look north to Salem because Eugene books up fairly quickly on the same weekend.

Rekhlau also said visitors can always “look at Newport, as a lovely option to be there on the coast. The only comment I would make is you’re starting to get into tourism season on the coast also, so you may see higher prices there.”

Under 60,000 people live in Corvallis full time, and as the small town welcomes college students through a revolving door, the impact of temporary visitors is felt in traffic and businesses.

“When there’s a football game or when students are moving in or out, I think that’s a time where people need to give one another a little bit of grace as there is extra traffic, people coming in unfamiliar with the streets,” Reklhau said, about how Corvallis locals feel about the business.

“We have a lot of one-ways … but generally the university has been here over 150 years, locals who have been here a long time have been through several commencements.”

The Corvallis community and locals are used to this seasonal tourism and Visit Corvallis is dedicated to “enhancing Corvallis’ prosperity by elevating its visitor economy,” according to their website. The organization does this by connecting people to experiences that show them what’s different and special about Corvallis.

Restaurants will also have limited availability and reservations available, come June 15. Local businesses and eateries “definitely staff up, as it’s one of those things similar to when football happens, being a university town you see a consistent pattern, so that helps you with staffing. They’ll look at their sales from last year and do appropriate staffing,” Rekhlau said.

With hotels full, streets confused and crowded and restaurants and stores stocked, there is bound to be irritation and impatience from locals and visitors, Rekhlau said. She encouraged “everyone to give one another a little grace and understand that our population grows by a significant amount during that time.”

For more information on what to do in Corvallis during spring, go to Visit Corvallis and find a list of events, restaurants and things to see around the city.

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