Businesses, individuals, community leaders and organizations with interest in Columbia River Gorge tourism are invited to the Gorge Tourism Summit hosted by Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance on Feb. 20.

“We know there is power in traveling to new places. Every visitor is changed through exposure to the varied experiences that make the Gorge unique,” said Renee Tkach, CGTA president, in a press release.

“CGTA is committed to developing the region as a world-class sustainable tourism destination. We are passionate about protecting the scenic, natural, cultural and recreational resources found here while enhancing the local economy.”

 The Gorge Tourism Summit will explore the impacts of over-use and congestion as well as the value of welcoming diversity in a deep-dive conversation led by Oregon Humanities.

Other topics explored through the day include the affects of short term rentals in the Gorge as well as how to welcome diversity both in the outdoor and in towns and businesses. 

The summit will begin with Gorge Trivia for participants and the public on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. at Pioneer Pizza in White Salmon.

The summit is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m on Feb. 20 at The Society Hotel in Bingen, a former school house, then hostel, extensively remodeled and expanded last year near downtown Bingen.

Cost of the event is $35 for existing CGTA members and $50 for nonmembers.

 “There will also be networking breaks and small group sessions to identify challenges and opportunities the Gorge is facing, with opportunities to carry these ideas forward into action,” said Emily Reed, GGTA network manager. 

Over the past three years, CGTA partners created action teams with projects to address key impact areas that are important to the Gorge:

Car Free Visitor Transportation supported the introduction of easy bus trips from Portland on the Columbia Gorge Express, created car-free itineraries and helped to connect visitors with the different transport systems in one seamless user experience. 

Cultural Heritage helped fund and create the Hear in the Gorge podcast series, which captures the history of the region as told by local personalities.  

Visitor Communications and Marketing launched “Ready, Set, GOrge,” which introduces the idea of stewardship and helps visitors prepare for an enjoyable experience in the Gorge. 

Culinary and Agritourism worked with wineries, farms and restaurants to create the East Gorge Food Trail, which focuses on local food and gives visitors in-person experiences. 

Workforce Training developed the We Speak The Gorge program, which trains front-line staff to introduce visitors to areas of the Gorge they may not have heard of — interesting restaurants, museums and local sites that are off the beaten path, relieving congestion and spreading the “economic love.” 

Outdoor Recreation painted the vision of the upcoming Towns to Trails initiative, which will create a signature trail loop that spans the two states, leading hikers across scenic vistas and into the towns that connect them. 

“The summit will give an opportunity for recreation and hospitality professionals, public agencies, local non-profits and elected city and county leadership to gather and talk about opportunities and challenges in collaboratively managing and developing the tourism economy in the Gorge,” Tkach said.

Event sponsors include Travel Oregon, Columbia Area Transit, Global Sessions, Oregon Humanities, Martin’s Gorge Tours, Society Hotel and Mugs Coffee.

Additional event sponsor and vendor opportunities are available. For more details and to register, go to gorgetourismsummit2020.eventbrite.com.

For more details about the Summit or CGTA partnership, contact Reed at emily@columbiagorgetourismalliance.org.

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