A year after the wine press and judges gave regional tourism a major boost, yet another shot in the arm is on the horizon.
With Country Crossings headed for The Expo July 27-30, thousands of folks will converge on Central Point, spending money throughout the Rogue Valley.
"Just watching the scope of and preparation for that event, and the social media buzz, I think it's going to be a very successful program," said Brad Niva, Travel Southern Oregon's executive director. "When you compare it to a similar event in Brownsville, where they see record numbers year after year, you can easily make the leap to where the Southern Oregon event will be just as popular."
Travel Medford Senior Vice President Eli Matthews said festival fans already have booked rooms, prime recreational vehicle parks, and snapped up the VIP and premium tickets.
"This is the type of event communities strive for, so we're very honored and excited to have Country Crossings," Matthews said. "Hotel rooms are selling out for those days."
Expo Director Helen Funk said Country Crossings anticipates 18,000 to 20,000 attendees with close to 15,000 tickets already sold. However, the economic ripple will touch eateries and lodging sites, along with wineries, river operators and outdoor vendors as well.
"There is great momentum behind the wine industry," Niva said. "The Southern Oregon region is cranking at full speed, and couldn't be in a better place right now with tourism increasing. People are making connection that Oregon's wine region is not just in the Willamette Valley, but the whole state."
Travel Medford anticipates 3 percent growth in visitor stays in Jackson County for fiscal 2017-2018, which begins July 1.
"Like a lot of industries, we use the past to predict the future," Matthews said. "We've had some pretty steady growth in transient lodging revenue."
The majority of those visitors come from Northern California and other parts of Oregon.
"Right now we're showcasing new Travel Medford videos in the Bay Area as well as Portland," Matthews said. "Not only is it affordable here, but when they're here, they're not waiting in lines, waiting in traffic, but are experiencing our beautiful region with fresh air and the incredible recreational opportunities."
Just as retailers make their money in the Christmas holidays, tourism companies' ledgers move into the black during summer, Niva said.
His former company, Rogue Wilderness Adventures, which draws its clientele from outside the region for multiple days, already has surpassed last year's sales.
"It's a great place to be," Niva said. "When you're sold out, you can put your head down on the pillow at night, knowing everything is going to be OK."
Despite smoky fires in 2013 and fires closing areas around Crater Lake for the past couple of summers, the industry has been on a steady climb.
"In this business, you're always trying to work on a good environment for tourists," Niva said. "Everything the last four years couldn't have been better. If anything, we've run into capacity issues. When campgrounds have full reservations, that's always a good thing."
He noted Lake of the Woods Resort was booked most of the summer.
"I was trying to make reservations for my own family, and there wasn't a single camp spot available for more than three days. There were only three days available in July; that's a great place to be in May if you're a small business owner."
While wineries and growing brewery capacity keep older visitors occupied afternoons and evenings, U.S. Cellular Community Park in Medford continues to add events to keep up with recent expansion.
"Sports tourism has been growing and U.S. Cellular fields is a premier site," Matthews said.
A recent Dean Runyan Report listed entertainment, sports and recreation spending right behind restaurants and lodging.
"It can't be overstated how U.S. Cellular fields has grown year after year," Matthews said. "Out of the 15 fields, most are booked up on weekends. It's done a lot to fill up those south-end hotels."
— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.