Travel Oregon will soon initiate a Tourism Studio focused on destination management for the North Coast. Initially, it will work in partnership with a diverse steering committee comprised of stakeholders from the North Coast to help shape the design of the program. In 2018, a workshop series will offer stakeholders in the region the opportunity to address tourism visioning, management planning, product (or ‘experience’) development, and action planning.
“Each year, millions of people visit the North Coast. We want to help them have a better experience while they are here, and do it in a way that benefits the community, businesses, land resource partners and other organizations,” says Court Carrier, executive director of the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce. Carrier leads the 17-person steering committee that developed the North Coast’s proposal for the Tourism Studio.
Launched in 2009, the Tourism Studio is a planning process designed to help rural communities develop a vision for sustainable tourism and develop strategies for attaining that vision. Communities have to apply to be accepted into the program, which usually includes six to eight full-day trainings and evening networking events.
“Getting people from different industries and backgrounds to sit around the same table is never easy. But we’ve found that when people make time for face-to-face conversations, that’s when opportunities open up in rural communities,” says Kristin Dahl, vice president of destination development at Travel Oregon and the creator of the Tourism Studio program.
One of the keys to success of Tourism Studios is collaboration among land managers, business owners, community members and nonprofits, who otherwise rarely interact. For example, this level of cooperation was pivotal to the success of Coos County’s new mountain biking trail system and the Hear in the Gorge podcast, both of which were born out of Tourism Studios.
Dahl says she modeled the Rural Tourism Studio after the Ford Institute Leadership Program, which between 2003 and 2016 engaged more than 6,000 rural community builders throughout rural Oregon and Siskiyou County, California, in interactive place-based trainings. “We design each Tourism Studio with the help of local leaders and destination management organizations, who are very tuned in to the needs of the community. Then, we engage subject-matter experts to deliver the trainings and provide limited ongoing support, such as helping with grant writing or marketing.”
The first Tourism Studio took place in Wallowa County in northeast Oregon and has since visited more than a dozen regions across the state, including the Southern Oregon Coast (Reedsport to Bandon) and the Wild Rivers Coast (from Bandon to Brookings). Graduating communities can apply for $10,000 – $20,000 from Travel Oregon’s Matching Grant Program to support the implementation of priority projects. In addition to providing grant money, Travel Oregon, which has an $38.3 million projected annual budget, helps promote the projects that emerge from Rural Tourism Studios. Some examples include cycling in Wallowa county, the Wild Rivers Coast Farm Trail, and South Lincoln County’s Hike, Bike and Paddle Map.
Tourism Studios live on through the creation “action teams” that will carry forward the community’s vision for sustainable tourism development in the region. With the North Coast set to begin its Tourism Studio in 2018, there’s an opportunity for cross-regional collaboration in the future.
“Participants will have a common language and similar knowledge of best practices. OCVA can play a strong role in leveraging the local networks and action teams in each region to address bigger issues such as transportation, affordable housing, and developing a year-round thriving business climate,” Dahl says.
Public meetings will be held in Cannon Beach, Seaside and Astoria/Warrenton and all will be welcome to attend. Learn how to participate in the North Coast Tourism Studio, by emailing Court Carrier at the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce with the subject line reading- “Rural Tourism Studio Invite.”
Photo by Larry Geddis