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Tourism clout continues to grow in region

Tourism's financial impact on Jackson County climbed 3.8 percent in 2016, growing at roughly the same clip since 2000.

Visitors to Jackson County spent $547.9 million last year, according to figures compiled by Dean Runyan Associates, released by Travel Oregon this week. In a five-county region, including Josephine, Douglas, Klamath and Lake counties, the 2016 figure was just over $1 billion, up 2.3 percent from 2015.

With consumer confidence floating on a 17-year high, there is plenty to suggest travelers will continue finding the Rogue Valley, Todd Davidson, CEO of Travel Oregon, said during a swing through Southern Oregon this week.

"Wages are starting to increase, macro-economic trends bode well, inflation has been low, gas prices are low, and air-travel costs are low," Davidson said. "That is continuing to stimulate domestic travel."

Jackson County's proprietor and employee income grew 7.2 percent in 2016 to $142.8 million, while employment grew 2.8 percent to 5,440 jobs. Regionally, earnings grew 5.8 percent to $284 million last year, while employment rose 2.3 percent to 11,700.

To this point, Travel Oregon has aimed its advertising campaigns at summer vacationers almost exclusively, but Davidson said his agency is casting a broader net, promoting fall and winter travel, as well. In September, Oregon Coast weather is at its best, vintners are crushing, and fall foliage is at its height.

"Part of it has been consumer mindset," Davidson said. "Even if it is a winter snow-sport vacation, our mindset is such in the spring that's when we're doing our trip planning. But last winter we spent almost a million dollars on our winter advertising campaign — more than we've ever spent in the winter — to take advantage of the fact we have additional resources. Consumers are showing an interest in traveling year-round, and we need to make sure we're maximizing that and that we're building on the shoulder seasons."

The first time the agency evaluated marketing results, it generated a new trip to Oregon for every $1.69 spent, Davidson said. That cost has now dropped to 99.5 cents.

In essence, every advertising dollar is generating $237 in incremental visitor spending and $11 in state and local tax revenue.

In its promotions, Travel Oregon has enlisted an animated chinook salmon to take online visitors on trips through coastal dunes, watch a fly fisherman, take in a vineyard and cycle through Portland.

While Oregon continues to draw tourists from Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, those legacy sources have been supplanted by additional Asian travelers, and Davidson expects to see more from the eastern hemisphere.

Visitors from China and India are coming on strong, he said. China is now the No. 2 market for Oregon, and No. 1 in spending by overseas markets.

"India is a very hot emerging market," he said. "English is the predominant language, they already have 10-year visa validity, we have some of the most liberal open skies treaties."

Delta flies from Amsterdam to Portland and Jet Airways of India is an Alliance partner with Delta.

"You've got one and a quarter billion people; 700 million of them are under the age of 35," Davidson said. "And they are interested in outdoor recreation and the culinary scene. What an amazing mix we have to be able to reach out to them in Oregon as a travel experience."

One of the new tools in Travel Oregon's box is personalized newsletters. Until now, 200,000 subscribers received the same monthly newsletter.

"Rather than sending out one email to 200,000 folks," Davidson said. "We can send out 200,000 emails, one at a time, that is personalized for each consumer, based on what it is they are interested in doing, where in Oregon they are interested in going, what kind of experience they really desire."

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

Todd Davidson