We all know that tourism is a growing sector of the Oregon economy. But when you look at the numbers, it’s quite staggering to see how much it’s grown over the last decade. Along the Oregon Coast between 2000 and 2015, local lodging taxes collected annually grew 50 percent from $18 million to $27 million. In that same time period, visitor spending along the Coast increased 29 percent from $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion That’s a lot of hotel rooms, milkshakes, clam chowder and kayak rentals!
Much of the Coast has felt the impacts of tourism, not just on our local economy, but also on our roads, trails and other infrastructure. We also see it reflected in the growing number of new restaurants, vacation homes, hotels and other businesses. While some people view these changes as positive, others might see them as challenges to overcome. As the regional destination management organization (RMDO) for the entire Coast, OCVA is working to connect stakeholders along the entire Coast to address these and other important issues.
Just last month, Travel Oregon and OCVA jointly hosted two Regional Stakeholder Gatherings — one in Tillamook and one in Coos Bay. The meetings provided an opportunity to hear from community members about what they think should be our top priorities when it comes to growing and sustaining the tourism economy while also preserving the places so many people love. More than 45 people attended those meetings. The key themes from the stakeholder meetings, along with the key findings from the stakeholder surveys (below), will help guide the OCVA in setting its strategic goals. But first, a little background:
Changes in Policy
During the 2016 legislative session, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 4146, which increased the state transient lodging tax from 1 to 1.8 percent for four years effective July 1, 2016 and then down to 1.5 percent starting July 1, 2020. The bill requires that 20 percent of state lodging tax revenue be dedicated to implementing Travel Oregon’s Regional Cooperative Tourism Program, and 10 percent must be dedicated to a competitive grant program.
Soon after this policy change, Travel Oregon hit the ground running to learn what people throughout the state perceive as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the tourism industry. Travel Oregon worked with OCVA to develop a region-specific stakeholder survey, which was sent out in February 2017. The Oregon Coast received the highest number of respondents in the state (followed closely by the Willamette Valley), showing there’s a strong commitment among those in the tourism sector to advance the industry.
5 things we learned from the stakeholder surveys
- People on the coast have positive views on tourism and the direction of the industry (55% and 70% agree that they are satisfied with the direction of the industry in the state and region respectively).
- When looking at coastal sub-regions, South Coast respondents expressed more concern about their communities not understanding the value of tourism compared with other regions. (High percentages of respondents from the South Coast disagree with the statement, “Overall, my community understands the value of tourism.)
- The highest priority among all respondents in the category of Planning/Management was increasing visitation to the region during off-peak seasons (85%).
- Leveraging marketing opportunities with Travel Oregon and other tourism organizations was a high priority in the Marketing category (79%).
- Respondents were also asked an open-ended question to describe a specific outcome they would like their region to achieve in the next three to five years that would increase the economic impact of tourism or enhance the vitality and sustainability of the destination. The most common themes were around product development and specific marketing tactics or objectives which individuals would like the OCVA to pursue.
OCVA is already using this information to develop strategic tactics and objectives that improve the visitor experience, increase economic opportunities along the Coast, and enhance coastal communities.
“Based upon what we’ve already heard, we need to even out the seasonality of our industry, find creative partnerships to mitigate visitor impacts, and evaluate options to address workforce needs,” says Marcus Hinz, executive director, OCVA. “Meanwhile, we must also keep our sights on improving the quality of life for coastal residents as we invest our limited resources in destination development projects.”
“We heard from stakeholders how important it is to be able to communicate with other communities along the Coast. We see the new OCVA industry newsletter as a tool to knit together the stories of the tourism industry along the Coast and share valuable information such as these survey results,” Hinz adds.
- Visit our website to find copies of numerous Coast tourism studies and reports.