One thing I know to be true: your proximity to a city, and your feelings towards said city, are not mutually exclusive. That’s more or less the case in Portland, or technically just outside of Portland, where suburbanites are reportedly no longer recommending out-of-towners visit the city.
According to Portland Travel Chief Strategy Officer Megan Conway, the number of Portland suburbanites who would recommend the city to visitors has fallen from 88% in 2017 to 61% in 2023, while the ones that said they would actively discourage visitation has gone from 9% to 24%. (Alternatively, “city dwellers” said they would be more likely to recommend the city to tourists.)
Per a report from Skift, the significant drop in outer Portland’s resident approval has been largely fueled by the media’s less-than-stellar (and mostly accurate) depiction of the city in recent years. Headlines like, “What’s the matter with Portland? Shootings, theft and other crime test city’s progressive strain” have resulted in a heightened association with crime and violence, thus the court of public opinion has deemed the city no longer safe.
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If you live in a city, this news is probably easy to shrug off. I’m from Upstate New York and can confirm that very few people I grew up with share my enthusiasm for the city, let alone for living in it. I’d venture to guess it’s not high on many of their “Places to Recommend to Out-of-Towners” lists, either. And the impact those people have is significant. As Dawit Habtemariam notes, suburbanites impact travel by hosting out-of-town friends and family, who then visit the city.
“[Suburbanites] often account for large shares of out-of-towners. In some destinations, they have been found to make up 70% of visitors,” Habtemariam writes.
For those who retreated to the suburbs during the pandemic and continue to work remotely, sensational headlines are enough to help forge opinions and influence behavior…and to be fair to those people, “Shootings, theft and other crime” does sound really bad. Even if the people who actually live in these places are confident that they, and any potential visitors, will probably be able to dodge enough bullets to stay alive until they decide to leave on their own.
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