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Oregon’s tourism industry continues to grow


Oregon has become a destination for travelers around the country, and around the world. For the past few days, Bend has been the epicenter of it all, at the Oregon Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

There have been 500 people from across Oregon gathered at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes to collaborate and discuss the latest happenings in the travel and tourism industry.

Whether they are the owners of small bike shops or operators of big-name hotels, the goal is to network and to find inspiration.

From Smith Rock to Mt. Bachelor, Central Oregon is full of tourism opportunities.

So it’s no surprise that this year’s conference was held in Bend and brought industry experts from across the state, including Kitri McGuire from Visit McMinnville.

“Collaboration is really what its all about in McMinnville,” McGuire said, “We’re so close to the coast, to Portland, to Eugene, so there’s a lot of opportunities for us to partner with amazing destinations to improve how Oregon is seen around the country and around the world.”

Also in attendance was Colby Marshall, vice president of Livestock and Guest Services at Silvies Valley Ranch in Burns.

“Tourism will be a new economy for us. This is what we want to be,” Marshall said. “We want to be the magnet that draws people from across the region, from across the country and from across the world.”

In Oregon, the tourism industry brings in $11.8 billion annually and employs more than 112,000 people.

In Central Oregon, the travel and tourism industry brings in $903 million and employs 9,400 Central Oregonians.

But Travel Oregon CEO Todd Davidson wants people to know there’s more to it than direct spending.

“It’s also that these folks, when they return home, they’re now becoming consumers of Oregon products,” he said. “They’re now looking for Oregon craft beers at their favorite corner tavern. They’re looking for Oregon wines on the wine list.

“They’re now purchasing Oregon-manufactured goods, because they came to Oregon and developed an affinity for this place. They were introduced to these products, and now they want to find them when they return home,” Davidson said.

But it’s not always easy to sell that message. Since 2015, tourism has declined about 1.5 percent across the country. That’s equal to 7 million visitors, $32 billion and 100,000 jobs.

Roger Dow, the president and CEO of U.S. Travel, acknowledged that the actions of the Trump administration have made international tourism more difficult.

“We’ve got a challenge, and I’m not going to sugar-coat it,” Dow said. “There’s so much talk about security and travel bans that it’s harming the welcome message we all try to do in America.”

Dow said the tourism industry needs to change its rhetoric to appeal to the administration. Dow suggested talking more about money — and winning.

“The message to the president is: ‘We can win.’ We’ve got to speak his language. It’s about, ‘We can win. We’re leaving money on the table,'” Dow said.

For Oregon’s tourism industry, that means stepping up to the challenge, working together and creating new opportunities.

Silvies Valley Ranch in Burns is helping to increase tourism in Eastern Oregon. The resort offers golfers the chance to use goats as golf caddies.

“The whole goat caddy thing actually came from the goats themselves,” Marshall said. “They were looking for new career opportunities on the ranch, and we, being responsible owners, wanted to listen to them and work with them.”

For more information on Silvies Valley Ranch you can visit this website:

For more information on Oregon tourism statistics, go to:

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