COOS BAY — Community members did not shy away from making their presence and voices heard at a tourism listening session held by The Oregon Tourism Commission (Travel Oregon) Wednesday afternoon at the Coos History Museum.

In partnership with The Oregon Coast Visitors Association the session, which is one of 10 that have been scheduled throughout the state, invited anyone in the region affected by tourism to join in identifying key aspects and challenges to the area’s local tourism industry.

Attendees were asked for full participation as their individual perspectives and input would be used in helping Travel Oregon draft their 2019-2021 statewide strategic plans. Tourist safety, affordable housing, education/training for industry workers, infrastructure support and increased signage were among the topics discussed at the meeting.

Executive Director of the Coos Bay North Bend Visitor Convention Bureau Janice Langlinais spoke out and said one of the city’s biggest challenges has been retaining those tourists who are just passing through the area.

“We have a lot of people who travel through but don’t stop and stay,” said Langlinais. “Some folks who stop at a gas station might ask (the attendant) what is there to do around here and they hear the answer nothing.”

Langlinais said in an effort to help improve this situation in partnership with The Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee the organization has created a community ambassador program to help educate local residents. The program consists of taking an hour long online program to learn about visitor information and things to do in the area.

Other challenges mentioned were increasing inside corridor hotels as some tour groups will avoid booking rooms in an outside door hotel for safety reasons. Investing in restoration and renovations to historic sites and buildings was also included in the discussion. Finding affordable housing for tourism industry workers was also brought up multiple times.

According to Travel Oregon, industry employment generated by travel spending in the South Coast in 2017 created about 5,340 jobs in the area. In Coos County it accounted for 3,300 jobs supported by local tourism. Total direct travel spending for Coos County in 2017 came up to about $271.1 million.

In addition to seeking input, The Regional Cooperative Tourism Program (RCTP) within Travel Oregon discussed the program’s budget in regards to the Oregon Coast region which for the 2017-2019 is over $2 million. The funds collected are only to be used toward programs and projects outlined in the official statewide strategic plan.

The budget is supported by a statewide transient lodging tax which in July 2016 increased from 1 percent to 1.8 percent. The tax is used for tourism promotion and tourism related facilities in Oregon. A fixed 20 percent of funds are implemented toward the RCTP and additional 10 percent is directed toward grant programs. According to HB 4146, on July 1, 2020 the state transient lodging tax will be reduced to 1.5 percent.

Travel Oregon regional program manager Harry Dalgaard informed attendees that after completing their remaining listening session planned in the next coming weeks they will gather all their new information and compile it into a report. They will then follow up with a survey in the fall, do additional workshopping and wrap up their final results into a draft for their upcoming 2019-2021 strategic plans.  

The next round of listening sessions will take place in the Southern, Eastern and Central regions of Oregon.  For more information on where meetings will take place you can visit Travel Oregon’s website.

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