SISTERS, OR -- The Sisters economy relies heavily on tourist dollars, but this summer has been tough for businesses in the small town.
City Manager Brant Kucera tells KBND News, "The eclipse and then the fires have definitely had a negative impact on business. And then, of course, with Labor Day weekend and the cancelation of the Folk Festival, it’s been a rough August/September." Kucera says last month's eclipse failed to bring the economic boost city leaders were hoping for, "We benefited from hotel stays. However, a lot of people really went to areas where the length of the totality was much longer, like Madras. It might’ve been good for one sector, but for others, it really wasn’t."
Poor air quality over the last month also appears to be keeping visitors away. "It’s not unusual to have smoky conditions. This differs, in that the fires were earlier." Kucera says in the past, large fires struck later in the season and didn’t interfere with large events like the Folk Festival, which was canceled last weekend due to the hazardous air. He calls it a perfect storm of smoke from local fires and others burning across the west, which compounded the problem, "A number of factors all coming together at the wrong time really made conditions unpredictable." City Councilors have tried to encourage people to visit, despite the conditions. "Number one, I think that Council obviously always wants to do whatever it can for the businesses and its citizens in Sisters. That being said, there are obviously a lot of things outside of our control. We do fund our Chamber and the Chamber has done a significant amount of additional advertising to make sure people know that we’re open."
As smoke clears out, he says it’s possible the area could recoup some of the lost revenue. "I think that if we have a more mild fall, there’s some chance of at least some more tourists coming. But, we’re going to have to do an assessment of how bad August and September really were." Kucera and Mayor Chuck Ryan plan to meet Tuesday with the representatives from the Sisters Chamber of Commerce to discuss this summer’s unique tourist season and whether any more can be done before the weather turns cold.