Is the Coast prepared for new trends in global travel? The answer, quite simply, is yes.
International visitors have distinct travel habits, and the Coast is uniquely poised to give them what they’re looking for. These are two clear takeaways OCVA’s Katera Woodbridge brought back from her globetrotting to international tradeshows this season.
As head of OCVA’s Global Sales and Marketing department, Woodbridge attended travel tradeshows in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany and Anaheim, California this past year. At one-on-one meetings with tour operators, media outlets and travel agents, she learned a thing or two about how international visitors plan their vacations. One revelation was that unlike U.S. citizens, consumers in other countries still rely heavily on travel agents to plan their vacations.
“U.S. consumers have moved away from that, but in many overseas markets they still have storefronts in shopping malls and they are all really busy,” she says. “That was a surprise.”
Potential travelers also might use the travel agency catalogs to get ideas to plan their own trips, she says. “For us to get some coverage in those places is really important.”
Woodbridge says international travelers to the U.S. are shifting from exploration of larger, well known cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami to explore lesser-visited destinations. In particular, the growing popularity of a Seattle to San Francisco fly-drive trip leaves the Oregon Coast with a captive market. Since most Coast towns are strung together by rural US-101, international visitors can travel at a slow pace and pass directly through coastal towns.
Additionally, the Coast is appealing to growing numbers of travelers who want to see something different. “It’s this idea of ‘I want to see something other people aren’t seeing,’” Woodbridge says. “The Oregon Coast excels there because we offer the unexpected.”
Woodbridge loves that her work helps her elevate the region’s one-of-a-kind shops, mom and pop restaurants and lesser known communities as she educates international industry leaders about the Coast.
“I have the opportunity to help them build out itineraries. That helps smaller businesses because trip planners would otherwise just search on Google where small businesses might not have a big presence.”
According to a recent report from Travel Oregon, visitors from Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Canada were among the top eight fly-drive countries to visit the Coast in 2017-18. These same countries represented the top eight international visitors for small, medium, large and niche group tours.
Woodbridge has served in her position since September 2017. Her mission, she says, is not to encourage as many people as possible to visit whenever. Instead she tries to teach travel and tourism operators, media outlets and travel agents how international visitors can travel well in Oregon.
“It’s so much more about being an advocate and bringing people here the right way,” she says.
“We try to sell the shoulder season as much as possible. There are amazing things about off-season: great fishing, cool events and uncrowded beaches.
Woodbridge is preparing to host two press trips with prolific writers from Australia. She helped guide the itinerary planning and will introduce guest writers to the South Coast and the Oregon Coast Trail.
Woodbridge praises Oregon’s tourism eco-system, which is made up of local businesses, land agency partners, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO), Regional Destination Marketing Organizations (RDMO) and Travel Oregon in a collective effort to advocate for tourism, promote local economies and take care of our natural resources/landscape. She encourages Coast businesses to stay in touch with their local DMOs about things like renovations, awards, anniversaries and local food sourcing
“People forget because their business is their daily grind and they don’t always know they have really cool things. We like to tell those fun stories.”
Those interested in learning more about the benefits international travelers bring and how to become engaged in this market can attend a Global Sales workshop at the People’s Coast Summit October 7-8.
“We’re having a good time talking about an amazing place.” Woodbridge says.
Photo by Justin Myers