The Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s self-imposed lodging assessment is already providing benefits to the county.
Part of the 6-percent assessment is going toward the Coos County Sheriff’s Office, which it’s using to increase salaries and hire more deputies.
The other portion is going to a Coos County tourism group comprised of a consortium of professionals from the area’s tourism industry.
The group is still trying to come to a consensus on its vision.
Julie Miller, the vice president of the county tourism group, said it’s so fresh it’s hard to know what direction it plans to move in.
“You’re asking questions that we just don’t have answers to yet, because this is so new,” Miller said of the three month old group.
However, she said all the board members have the same goal in the end -- to bring more people to the area.
“What I’m looking for from this is that partnership collaboration and strategy that will enhance our product and give us the ability to make ourselves a desirable place,” Miller said, “When people come to the South Coast they fall in love.”
Jim Seeley, executive director of the nonprofit Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, said outdoor recreation accounts for a high percentage of the visitors to the South Coast.
“We know for sure there’s a lot more outdoor recreation opportunities than is well known by the rest of the world,” Seeley, who’s also a part of the tourism group, said.
He said the group is trying to send the message to the world that the South Coast is a bucket list destination.
Doing that has its own challenges.
Seeley said when people look up the area on the Internet there’s a lot of information about food and lodging, but very little on why you’d actually want to come here.
“It was a real eye opener that we weren’t telling the story,” Seeley said.
That’s something that this tourism group as well as other interested parties in the area aim to change.
Miller said part of the battle isn’t just getting people to the coast.
“It’s not just getting people here, it’s getting people and having the right things in place, the right infrastructure,” she said.
Her statement mirrors something emphasized in Travel Oregon’s rural tourism studio — the need for improved infrastructure.
Seeley said infrastructure is more aligned to asset development.
“In other words, outdoor recreation assets that need to be developed,” Seeley said, “We’re not talking about building hotels. What we’re talking about is improving the outdoor recreation assets.”
The Coos County Forest mountain bike trail has been cited by many as a step forward in developing recreation assets on the South Coast.
While the need for infrastructure was a topic highlighted in the rural tourism studio, it has yet to be seen what the county tourism group will focus on.
Miller said it’s more important for the group to do things right rather than quickly.
“The strategy of this board is to be thoughtful and strategic of decisions we make, so were not reinventing the wheel with what’s already going on in the area,” Miller said.
She said after years of being financially strapped, the area is finally getting to a place where things are opening up.
“We’ve got the wind behind our back now and it’s up to us to do something amazing with it,” Miller said.
Optimism runs high, because multiple groups are all working on improving tourism to the area.
“What we’ve seen over the last three years is a number of different city officials, county officials, organizations, tourism groups, who have come together around common visions for the economic vitality of the region,” Marie Simonds with the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance said, “We see that as the way forward, people coming around as a collective vision.”
Miller, who also serves as the executive director for the Bandon Chamber of Commerce, sees strength in that collective vision.
“We’ve been so focused on what each of our communities has individually,” Miller said, “For a long time we overlooked that you’re stronger together than individually.”
That mentality is something that aligns with Wild Rivers Coast Alliance’s objective.
“Our overriding objective at WRCA is to help grow the size of the pie and help these different communities to reach out to get their fair share of that pie,” Seeley said.
Miller, who’s been in the tourism industry for 18 years, is more optimistic than ever.
“We’re perfect to be in this publication because we’re maybe the strongest we’ve ever been in this industry,” Miller said, “When this process ends I think we’ll be the strongest in the state.”