"Winning the hearts of experience-hungry travelers" - Sounding a bit like a military campaign, this winning battle strategy to attract visitors, engage them in rich travel experiences and bring increased tourism dollars to local economies was delivered to local business owners at the June 21 Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting.
More than 50 chamber members from Hood River, The Dalles and Mt. Adams branches heard the call from Todd Davidson, CEO of the Oregon Tourism Commission as he outlined a competitive, cutting-edge game plan to increase tourism and travel-based economic revenue under the Travel Oregon umbrella concept.
"Tourism in Oregon equates to $8.4 billion a year in revenue in the state and is responsible for creating 90,400 jobs," said Davidson.
According the Davidson, today's travelers want deeper experiences when they travel. They are looking for more than just a visit.
"They want to connect with nature, engage with cultural activities, reconnect with family, eat and drink. But all of it is more active than in the past. It is about personal discovery and leaving with stories to tell," Davidson said. "Today's tourists are curious. They are traveling because they are hungry for authentic adventures and need more of something."
According to the Travel Oregon campaign whatever the "more" is that most travelers are seeking can best be found in Oregon.
"Consumers give us no choice except to be cutting edge," said Davidson, as he listed the many angles in which consumers seek out adventures and information with which make their travel choices and purchases.
The Oregon Tourism Commission, in concert with statewide chamber of commerce branches and localities is striving to ensure that through effective cooperation of tourism-friendly businesses, Oregon travelers will experience a "best in class" visit to the state.
A recently commissioned study evaluating Oregon visitor behavior found that 85 percent of travelers leave Oregon feeling very or extremely satisfied with their visit. A portion of the 15 percent leaving without that "perfect" score, cited weather and traffic as contributing to disappointment.
Conversely, a portion of those less than satisfied noted that they actually felt they didn't get to stay long enough.
"We want our visitors to leave feeling like an Oregonian as a result of their trip," said Davidson, who also noted that when people feel connected in this way, study results show that they are more likely to make return visits, more likely to purchase products made in the state after they go home and are more likely to introduce products from the state to others in the future.
But in order to create the coveted goal of "highly personalized experiences" and strong positive memories for travelers, you have to get people to visit.
"We are using every social media source - Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, print and video - to connect and drive consumers down to the decision level in favor of Oregon," said Davidson.
With a strong international as well as national marketing push for tourism, Oregon has increased total international traveler visits by 8 percent over the last five years. The upward trend is continuing for the first half of 2011, as well.
"Our largest tourist market is actually Canada," noted Davidson. "Japan has been one of our strongest overseas sources along with Europe. Surprisingly, tourism numbers from China have doubled in just three years.
"Let's win the hearts and trips of future travelers," said Davidson, conveying the target goal to the engaged chamber members.
And, if there were any non-believers in the group, Davidson went on to state the most obvious sales point for anyone wooing a traveler to the state: "The perfect world feels a lot like Oregon."