Oregon’s nonprofit hospitality industry advocate Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association (ORLA) has announced the launch of its first (OTLA) to take place in 2020. The annual program, which is only the second of its kind in the nation, aims to improve the leadership skills of public and private sector tourism professionals and support the ongoing success of Oregon’s tourism economy. 

“We believe we are embarking on a leadership experience which will prove to be transformative for program participants,” says Jason Brandt, ORLA president and CEO. “The academy will bring lasting personal and professional benefits to those who participate.” 

During the course of the year, 20 participants will engage in four multi-day experiential learning excursions. This year’s sessions will take place in Central Oregon in spring, Willamette Valley in summer, Southern Oregon in fall and the North Coast in winter. Brandt says the OCVA staff have been pivotal in developing the itinerary for the North Coast curriculum.

The idea for the OTLA grew out of Brandt’s own experience with leadership programs at the chamber of commerce level, which brought businesses together to learn from one another. 

“It occurred to ORLA and our friends at Travel Oregon that there is a similar need across the state as it relates to the tourism industry,” he says. “We felt it was our responsibility to make sure to bridge the gap.”

“We are really supportive of the work ORLA does in education and workforce training,” says Arica Sears, OCVA Destination Management Coordinator. “The tourism academy is an awesome opportunity for people who have been in the industry for a while to up their game.”

The deadline to apply for OTLA is November 1. The program fee is $2,500 and with an expected additional $1,600 for lodging and transportation costs.  OTLA is a collaboration between ORLA, Oregon Destination Association and Travel Oregon and will be led by Oregon’s hospitality industry experts.

ORLA is also building out a newly created advocacy network, which will call members to action on key political and legislative issues. Using a software tool called Phone2Action, the program will create an efficient means for network members to learn about an issue, absorb it and contact the appropriate elected official with text and customized email messaging. Brandt says the network will help create a stronger voice for the industry at the city, county, state and federal levels of government. 

“It is using the power of the written word in mass volume to get the attention of elected leaders when the situation calls for it,” he says.

Ongoing key issues for the advocacy network will likely include regulating short term rentals and protecting lodging taxes. Brandt says the Coast region, which is made up of many small, owner-operated businesses, can benefit from the leverage offered by strength in numbers with ORLA membership. 

“There is a lot to be excited about when it comes to the hospitality industry in Oregon,” he says. “The sky’s the limit to bringing international visitors here to experience the wonders we see every day.” 

ORLA serves as the leading advocate for the state’s tourism industry, striving to protect, improve and promote Oregon hospitality. The nonprofit organization represents approximately 2,600 members and advocates for more than 10,220 food service locations and 2,000 lodging properties in Oregon. The food service and lodging industry is responsible for 183,191 jobs bringing in over $13.8 billion in annual sales for Oregon.

According to Travel Oregon, the state’s travel and tourism industry generated $12.3 billion in visitor spending in 2018. Visitation to Oregon is at an all-time high and everyone from frontline staff to the creatives behind the state’s marketing campaigns contributes to visitors’ experiences. Travel Oregon continues to receive feedback that workforce development is an issue, but little research has been completed to understand the root causes of these concerns. To better understand how to advance tourism-related jobs in Oregon, Travel Oregon has developed the Oregon Tourism Workforce Survey. 

The objective of the survey is to develop a broader understanding of the workforce development landscape in Oregon to better meet the needs of the industry. The survey is available in English and Spanish and is open to anyone who has worked in Oregon’s tourism industry as a part-time, seasonal or full-time employee or as a business owner. The deadline to complete the survey is Nov. 8.

For more information about the Oregon Tourism Leadership Academy or the Oregon Tourism Advocacy Network, visit the ORLA website or contact Marla McColly, ORLA Director of Business Development.

Photo by Joni Kabana