Since March 2020, through our COVID-19 Response Strategic Plan, Travel Oregon has been working diligently with tourism industry partners and government agencies to both achieve public health priorities and support the tourism economy through the pandemic.
The travel and tourism industry has been heavily impacted by the pandemic. In 2020, of the 178,200 payroll jobs Oregon lost, 81,600 of those, or 46.9%, were in the travel and tourism sector. More than 75% of these lost jobs were in food service or bars. Travel Oregon is committed to investing in key opportunities that repair, rebuild and restore Oregon’s tourism economy.
In February, the Oregon Tourism Commission approved a budget modification to Travel Oregon’s 2019-21 biennial budget to increase investment in direct relief to tourism-related businesses and organizations. This was done both in response to industry needs, which were identified by the agency’s fall 2020 stakeholder survey and the delta between spring 2020 forecast and actual transient lodging tax collections.
With so many in Oregon’s travel and tourism industry still facing the impacts of COVID-19, the approved budget modification provides $4.5 million in immediate relief through Competitive Grants, community investments and the regional cooperative tourism program. Travel Oregon has also modified existing programming – whether it be in marketing or in creating a virtual education platform – to support industry needs.
The summary below provides a high-level overview of Travel Oregon’s multi-million-dollar suite of investments to aid the tourism industry in economic recovery from the pandemic.
GRANTS AND COMMUNITY INVESTMENTS
COVID-19 Emergency Response Grants
In June of 2020, Travel Oregon awarded $800,225 to local Oregon businesses to support job retention and stabilization through a newly created COVID-19 Emergency Response Grant Program. More than 90% of the funds were awarded to businesses in Oregon communities with fewer than 35,000 residents and more than 70% of the funds were dedicated to cover some portion of payroll expenses.
Destination Ready Program
Through the Destination Ready program, $973,336 was awarded to 35 projects in communities across Oregon that support of the development, enhancement, and stewardship of COVID-19 appropriate visitor experiences. Over 34% of funding went to outdoor recreation efforts while over 31% went to development projects on main streets. Learn more about the projects and anticipated outcomes.
Competitive & Recovery Grants Program
On May 3, Travel Oregon announced the awarded projects through the Competitive & Recovery Grants Program. $2,408,264.67 was awarded to support economic recovery by investing in projects that enhance and expand visitor experience and prepare communities and visitors for COVID-19 safe travel. For this grant cycle, Travel Oregon received more than 400 applications with a request great than $18 million.
REGIONAL COOPERATIVE TOURISM PROGRAM
Oregon’s seven Regional Destination Management Organizations have been developing and leading recovery efforts in each region of the state. Through the February budget modification, Travel Oregon allocated an additional $1.5 million to a Regional Recovery and Stability Program for these organizations to distribute funds throughout their communities during summer 2021.
During fall and winter (August-December 2020), Travel Oregon developed a tactical plan with the objective of raising awareness on how to travel safely in Oregon. We positioned Travel Oregon’s owned channels as trusted travel resources by:
- Raising awareness about how to travel safely in Oregon.
- Encouraging compliance with state and local regulations so businesses can remain open.
- Responsible recreation on Oregon’s public and private lands.
Give the Gift of Oregon
In November 2020, Travel Oregon and Business Oregon partnered to create a comprehensive statewide consumer promotion – Give the Gift of Oregon – to support local businesses by encouraging Oregonians to shop local through the holiday season.
- Timing: Nov. 18-Dec. 31
- Budget: $196,000 (split 50/50 with Business Oregon)
Built Oregon reported that Travel Oregon drove nearly 5,000 sessions to the Built Marketplace during our campaign. We were the top referral source for Marketplace during the campaign, and the platform experienced nearly $90,000 in sales.
Optimizing Online Business Presence with Locl
Travel Oregon has partnered with Portland-based company Locl, to provide a platform that offers businesses a hub for managing their listings and tools to optimize Google My Business profiles, for free. This opportunity to help Oregon travel and tourism businesses optimize their Google My Business (GMB) profiles, will give Oregon a competitive advantage as we work to rebuild our tourism industry.
Take Care Out There
Recognizing that outdoor recreation sites were heavily used during spring and summer 2020, Travel Oregon worked to share its Take Care Out There messaging through partnerships with local TV stations, land management agencies and social media channels. Encouraging residents and visitors alike to be good stewards of our natural spaces and to be aware of the new safety requirements.
Marketing Recovery Campaign
When it is safe to do so, the timing is appropriate, and the economic impact is greatest, Travel Oregon will launch its campaign “Welcome to Oregon, Again”, which is designed to promote in-state travel, support local tourism businesses, and keep Oregonians traveling locally vs. traveling to higher risk states. This campaign will position Travel Oregon as a trusted resource to provide safe travel information related to COVID-19 and responsible recreation best practices that we know will be critical this summer.
Travel Oregon’s Why Guides program is an agency-wide effort to recognize and promote tourism industry operators, guides and outfitters as one of the state’s top tourism assets. This community is made up of local experts who help travelers discover unique experiences, follow destination management principals and provide land stewardship throughout the state, creating a memorable and sustainable experiences for visitors. The goal is to gather in-depth information from this sector and create opportunities to connect these guides with potential travelers, which will also support other spending in those communities in retail, restaurants and lodging. The registry will launch late April 2021.
VIRTUAL TRAININGS + WEBINARS + INFORMATION
Travel Oregon designed the Virtual Training, Engagement and Assistance program for small businesses, industry leaders, and tourism professionals seeking resources and tools to support their local tourism economy’s healthy recovery. We covered an array of topics with series focusing on:
- Small business marketing (6-part series)
- Tour operator, guides and outfitters (5-part series)
Recordings of all past trainings and webinars are available on our industry YouTube channel.
Due to an increased need for communication, Travel Oregon increased the frequency of its industry newsletter from once a month to once a week. It also launched a series of online toolkits for partners to find information about COVID-19 and Travel Oregon’s marketing efforts.