ASHLAND — With the summer vacation season just around the corner, the region’s travel leaders are prepping to build on Southern Oregon’s billion-dollar tourism industry.
The 22nd annual Travel Southern Oregon Tourism Symposium, themed “Discover Your Sense of Place,” unfolds Sunday and Monday at the Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites.
Brad Niva, appointed Travel Southern Oregon executive director a year ago, has reshaped the agency and beefed up the staff with the assistance of additional money from Travel Oregon, which is run by the Oregon Tourism Commission and is based in Salem.
The region has been pared down to five counties — Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Lake — from seven, with Coos and Curry counties regrouped with the rest of the Oregon Coast.
“We’re building a lot of momentum with the reboot in our office,” Niva said. “We’ve always been pretty fragmented because of how big our region is, but we’re working on developing on our product with more partners coming in line.”
Although 2017 economic-impact numbers, supplied by Travel Oregon, won’t be out until later this month, Niva said the region had a strong showing, with the exception of the late summer wildfires.
“We had a strong winter, a time when many people are struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “While much of the state lodging numbers were down, we remained flat.”
Niva has presented a four-prong approach for the region: Celebrating its national parks and monuments; growing the wine industry; promoting arts and culture such as the Britt and Oregon Shakespeare festivals; and advancing outdoor recreation.
“Bend is such a popular place,” he said, “but there is no reason Southern Oregon can’t cater to the same clients. Our products are just as good as Central Oregon’s. We’ve got to do our best to make sure we’re an outdoor recreation destination.”
Another change that could boost the region is that Travel Southern Oregon can now target advertising dollars in other parts of the state. Marketing efforts previously had to target out-of-state audiences.
“We have to be smarter in where we spend our advertising dollars,” Niva said. “Lincoln City was spending its money in Seattle, but when they dug down deeper, they saw there were far more people coming over from Eugene, Corvallis, Salem and Portland.”
Three-day weekends put Portlanders within range, Niva said.
“We can’t discount Portland. With the rule change, it makes total sense. There are a lot of new Oregonians living in Portland who have never explored Crater Lake, the Oregon Shakespeare or Britt festivals, and our wine and hotels.”
Advance reservations are required for Sunday’s opening-night reception and Monday’s symposium.
Registration for the symposium is $149 for TSO members and $159 for nonmembers. Sunday evening’s reception, featuring local culinary flavors, Bear Creek wines and Caldera Brewing beverages, is $39 per person. The symposium agenda and registration information can be found at www.southernoregon.org/symposium, or call Shannon DePuglia, Travel Southern Oregon administrator, at 541-659-3616 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.