Local tourism sites get state grants

Mount Ashland, Wine and Farm Tour receive funds to help with their promotional campaigns
Del Rio Vineyards near Gold Hill is one of six wineries in the Upper Rogue River Wine and Farm Tour, which received a state tourism grant for promotions.Jim Craven

The heavy summer travel period has passed, giving way to memories and archived photos.

Now, tourism promoters are busy drumming up future business and touting the region's delights to the next wave of visitors.

Fewer visitors in August, compared with last year

Southern Oregon hotel and innkeepers saw a slightly down August, according to figures compiled by Smith Travel Research of Tennessee.

Room demand, revenue, occupancy and revenue per available room all declined against August 2010. However, all those categories remained in positive territory for the first eight months of the year.

Statewide, both revenue per available room and general revenue categories showed modest gains, led by the Portland metro area.

Southern Oregon Visitors Association Chief Executive Officer Carolyn Hill, who oversees promotion in a seven-county region, said Klamath County showed gains this summer, buoyed by visitation at Crater Lake National Park, which had its best August in its 109-year history.

"We are hearing that while July and August were relatively flat in Medford and Grants Pass, September should be a strong month due to large tournaments and groups (visiting) Medford," Hill said. "Ashland is also seeing good potential in the coming months with renewed interest and bookings by groups, including alumni associations, that were annual visitors but have been absent for a few years. Seeing those bookings come back for late 2011 and early 2012 is a very positive indicator."

"This is a critical time of year for our hospitality businesses, being the shoulder season," said Carolyn Hill, chief executive officer of the Southern Oregon Visitors Association. "Campaigns which seek to increase travel during those leaner months are incredibly important."

Those efforts got a boost this week when the Oregon Tourism Commission awarded $66,500 to 12 tourism development projects through its matching grants program. The selection committee pared down the list from a pool of 35 applicants from around the state.

"We're delighted to see that several Southern Oregon applicants received funding in this very competitive grant process," Hill said.

Mt. Ashland Association received $2,625, and Upper Rogue River Wine and Farm Tour picked up $4,702.

The five-year-old Upper Rogue group, representing six wineries, has previously marketed primarily in its own backyard.

"It's time to branch out into the next closest big market to us," said Ruth Garvin of Cliff Creek Wines and Sams Valley Vineyard. "Northern Cal is an untapped market for us. We've submitted ideas in the past, so we're excited we were awarded this year."

Other wineries involved include Agate Ridge Vineyards, Crater Lake Cellars, Del Rio Vineyards, Folin Cellars and LaBrasseur Vineyard.

Hill said the Upper Rogue Wine Trail is an excellent example of a well-planned campaign for what she termed a burgeoning wine region along the Rogue Umpqua Scenic Byway.

"It's so impressive to see how cooperative the wineries and farms are in that area of Southern Oregon," Hill said. "They have gotten together, figured out what they have to offer, and developed an ingenious campaign by putting their resources together."

Mt. Ashland Association is targeting the Redding, Calif., area, and its 90,000 inhabitants, with a $5,250 campaign, including $2,625 from Travel Oregon, over a five-month period. Mt. Ashland will run ads on Redding.com, the website of the Redding Record-Searchlight newspaper.

"The third most hits on the Ashland Chamber website come from Redding," said Mt. Ashland Association Marketing Director Rick Saul. "We know there is a lot of interest from the Redding market and people are familiar with our leisure services and reputation."

The goal is to leverage that reputation not only to get Shasta County residents on the ski slopes, he said, but to have them venture into Ashland for food and lodging.

A recent National Ski Areas Association survey indicates 13 percent of the skiers on the local hill stay overnight, meaning about 8,000 annually use local accommodations.

"We've set a target to get those overnight stays to 10,000 in the Ashland and Medford area," Saul said. "It's our off-season and we have the capacity."

It was Mt. Ashland Association's second matching award in three years.

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