ASHLAND, Ore. – With Oregon Shakespeare Festival announcing its 2021 season, Ashland businesses told NBC5 News a return to normalcy can’t come soon enough. Retail and restaurants rely on tourism dollars, with COVID-19 restrictions, last year was a roller coaster for businesses throughout the city.
“2020 was our most challenging year. Everything was so much harder. Everything needed a little bit more heart and enthusiasm to get to the other side,” said Pam Hammond, co-owner of Paddington Station. A fixture in Ashland for 48 years.
With a new year, she’s excited for 2021 and the possibility of an in-person OSF season.
“There’s been just a lot of live arts that you can see and participate in. And it’ll be so wonderful to have those activities back in our lives,” said Hammond.
While OSF doesn’t know how soon live theater will return, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Ashland tourism will look different this year.
“We’ll never go back to what it was before COVID. We don’t believe that will happen and honestly, we don’t want exactly the same,” said Neuman Hotel Group’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Karolina Lavagnino.
She said 2020 was a lesson learned in relation to tourism. Now the community is casting a wider net of attractions potential tourists can take advantage of. If OSF can’t start in person until late in the year plans are being made, so tourism doesn’t suffer like it did last year.
Ashland’s Chamber of Commerce is working to emphasize beautiful Southern Oregon outdoors and local culinary attractions.
“The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, they’re the cultural cornerstone of why Ashland is Ashland. All the efforts that are being made collectively are going to leave us forward into the future,” said Katharine Cato, Ashland Chamber of Commerce.
Whether or not OSF comes back to in-person performances this year. Businesses around the community are hoping 2021 will bring new tourists to the area after such as rough 2020.