Camas Hotel owners earn regional tourism award

The Halls moved to Camas in 2008

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A California couple who moved to Camas three years ago with the motto of “wherever you go, leave it better than the way it was when you came” has been bestowed the Tourism Ambassador Award.

Tom and Karen Hall, owners of the Camas Hotel, are the recipients of a Vancouver USA Regional Tourism Office Clark County Tourism Award, which recognizes key individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to tourism and economic growth in the region.

“There are many unsung heroes that have contributed greatly to tourism in Clark County,” said Kim Bennett, president and CEO of the Vancouver USA Regional Tourism Office. “The Tourism Awards pay tribute to these organizations and individuals that have gone above and beyond by displaying ingenuity, innovation, and leadership when attracting tourists and visitors to Southwest Washington.”

The Tourism Ambassador Award is bestowed upon individuals who continually strive to enhance the experience of tourists visiting Clark County. Karen Hall said she was honored to receive the recognition.

“There are a lot of business owners and hoteliers who might have been chosen, so we were particularly pleased to have been singled out for this award,” she said. “I think the award signals that the efforts we are making to promote Camas and our larger region, for the Camas Hotel & Oliver’s Restaurant, along with volunteer projects done as a board member for the Downtown Camas Association, are on the right track.”

The Halls have owned the historic hotel since September 2008 and in that time have completed major renovations to the 100-year-old property.

The couple gutted and rebuilt the entire second floor, adding individual bathrooms to each room and converting the rooms into elegant quarters.

They also updated the lobby and the manager’s apartment in 2009.

The third floor remains similar to how is was before — tenants can rent rooms by the week or month and there are shared bathrooms and a shared kitchen.

The Halls plan on slowly renovating the third floor as well, but intend to keep it more basic than the second floor so it can remain affordable.

Since the Halls took over the hotel, business has grown by 30 percent each year. The couple also owns Oliver’s, the adjoining restaurant.

Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brent Erickson said the improvements to the Camas Hotel have added to the overall draw of the area, making the Columbia Gorge a multi-faceted destination spot with attractions that also include outdoor activities such as hiking, boating and fishing.

“Karen and Tom have done a great job improving their hotel for accommodations, and now they have something that will also bring people into the area, in addition to other hotels like the Best Western,” he said.

Hall said the Camas Hotel renovations fit right in with an overall effort, involving merchants and the city to improve the downtown area, to attract visitors from the local and regional areas.

“I think in the past, Camas residents were fond of their town, but felt inhibited by the presence of the mill in terms of promoting Camas as a destination,” Hall said. “Our current merchants see the mill as something that not only provides jobs, but gives our area character.

“New visitors are often surprised and delighted by our charming and authentic downtown, so Camas is really coming into its own as a community and as a destination, no longer hidden by the shadow of the mill, but resting, rather proudly, beside it.”

Other winners of the Clark County Tourism Awards included Hoops on the River-Share of Vancouver, which received the Spirit of Tourism Award, and Brian Davis, race director for Energy Events, recognized with the Outstanding Tourism Professional Award.

The three winners were nominated by their peers and then selected by the Tourism Office board of directors.