Scanning the States
The Oregon Arts Commission, the state’s art agency, recently released part three of the Connections: The Arts at Work across Oregon series, with this issue focusing on cultural tourism in Oregon. Titled “Exploring Authentic Oregon: The Impact and Importance of Cultural Tourism,” the 20-page publication explores the power of the cultural tourism partnerships, as well as useful resources for communities interested in pursuing cultural tourism in their area. Below are excerpts from the publication. To read Connections in its entirety, go to the Oregon Arts Commission website:
Exploring Authentic Oregon: The Impact and Importance of Cultural Tourism
Oregon’s Cultural Riches: An Important Natural Resource
By George Taylor
"Tourism is a vital economic driver in Oregon, contributing significantly to the health of our communities through job creation and increased tax revenue. Visitors continue to discover and connect with the diverse natural treasures of our unique state.”
— Governor Ted Kulongoski
Tourism is Oregon’s largest traded-sector industry. It employs 90,000 Oregonians and contributes $7 billion to the state’s economy each year.1 Travel Oregon, the state’s tourism arm, doesn’t break out figures explicitly for cultural tourism, but national statistics show that fully 81% of the 146.4 million U.S. adults who took a trip of 50 miles or more away from home in the past year were cultural and heritage tourists.
Tourists are a curious breed with a hunger for experience and knowledge of the world and the people in it. It’s the same urge that draws people to arts events, museums, and festivals, and that drives artists to create. In a world of interchangeable communities, cookie-cutter malls, and plastic souvenirs, a growing number of travelers are searching for the new, the different, the authentic.
That last word is particularly important. As the globe shrinks and visitors grow tired of creeping homogenization, authentic experiences become a key factor in their decisions of where to go and what to do. Will I find a distinct sense of place, a genuine glimpse into other cultures, other times, other ways of living? Will I connect with real people? Will I learn something new? Will I create unique memories?
Fortunately for us, Oregon offers a wealth of authentic and unique experiences to attract these discerning, inquisitive tourists. This publication highlights a handful of the many ways communities, organizations, and businesses are using tourism to showcase and preserve the rich cultural heritage of our state, while adding to the diversity and vibrancy of our economy.
Below are summaries of each of the case studies highlighted in this publication:
Ashland: Taking Show Business to a Different Level
Any discussion of cultural tourism in Oregon must take note of Ashland, that picturesque town in the Siskiyous at the southern limit of the state – five freeway hours from the largest metropolitan area. From February through October, nearly a hundred thousand people of all ages head to Ashland for the express purpose of going to the theater. For Ashland is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the nation’s largest regional theater companies.
Grants Pass: City Reconnects with the Arts
Just a few miles up I-5 from Ashland, another Oregon community is using the arts to help create a distinct sense of place, build civic pride, and attract visitors. In Grants Pass, the stage for economic growth through the arts is being set not by the Bard, but by a bank.
Portland: The Weather’s Always Right for Jazz
It’s not much of a trick to get visitors to Portland when the air is warm, and the skies are blue, and the “mountain is out.” But the wet heart of February is a different kettle of steelhead altogether. In 2004, a group of smart tourism, arts and business people decided that the Rose City needed a way to fill hotel rooms and generate tourist income during the lowest occupancy month of the year. And what could be a more
appealing break from the cold, rainy, bluesy Portland winter than some hot music?
Lincoln City: Finders, Keepers on the Beach
The Oregon Coast attracts attention for much more than its celebrated natural splendor. Every community along its 360 miles seems to be discovering creative ways of using the arts to take the beach experience beyond sand, surf and scenery. Each town has a gallery or twelve; music festivals abound; culinary arts – cooking classes and restaurants and wine tastings – are popping up like, um, champagne corks; festivals, fairs and celebrations occupy every month of the calendar.
Astoria: A City True to Its Roots
An old bumper sticker concisely captures the identity that makes Oregon’s oldest city increasingly popular with tourists: “Astoria ain’t quaint.” Nor, if its residents have anything to say about it, will it ever be. For that would not be the authentic Astoria, a community determined to celebrate its proud working-town roots and layer
upon layer of history.
More Liberty Theater photos: www.liberty-theater.org/
Clackamas County: Collaboration Builds Value
Talk to anyone who’s participated in a successful cultural tourism project, and sooner or later, the subject comes around to the value of partnerships. Here’s how the National Trust for Historic Preservation puts it in its five basic principles for success: “Building partnerships is essential, not just because they help develop local support, but also because tourism demands resources that no single organization can supply....Cooperating in a regional arrangement lets you develop regional themes, pool resources, save money and expand your marketing potential.” What follows is the story of just such a partnership.
Willamette, Umpqua Valleys: Exploring the Back Roads
In a beautiful state like Oregon, artists seem to crop up everywhere – including small towns and along scenic back roads far from the beaten tourist track. In a wide swath of rural Oregon from the Southern Willamette and Umpqua River valleys to the Coast, a new economic development project called Oregon Crafted seeks to connect travelers
with the charms of an overlooked landscape and with the artists who live, work, and find inspiration here.
Sisters: Little Town that Could
A land of Ponderosa giants, wide meadows, and a signature trio of mountains, Sisters enjoys a classic western setting, with a main street to match. But behind those famous 1890-style false fronts and wooden sidewalks is a genuine community where the Old West and the arts converge.
(Note: This story originally appeared in the May/June 2006 issue of Bend Living magazine. A slightly edited version is used here with permission.)
1 Source: Travel Oregon Economic Impact report of January 2006.
New California HATS, BAGS AND EATS Packages
Unique Culture, Heritage and Shopping Experiences
Capitalizing on travelers’ interest in combining shopping, dining and cultural heritage experiences, California Tourism, leading California cultural and heritage attractions and Shop California have developed HATS, BAGS and EATS, an innovative partnership offering a wide range of cultural, historic and shopping tours throughout the state.
"Our HATS, BAGS and EATS packages are fun for quick getaways or can be easily combined for an extended vacation,” explains Caroline Beteta, Executive Director, California Travel & Tourism Commission. “California offers an amazing wealth of culture, history and gardens along with world class shopping and dining—the new packages combine these for a well-rounded California experience. Many of the tours include behind the scenes and unique VIP experiences.”
HATS= History, Arts, Tours, Shopping and can include a stay in a unique historic hotel or inn.
BAGS= Botanical Arts, Garden and Shopping and features tours of some of California’s most beautiful natural attractions.
EATS= Epicurean Arts Tours and Shopping and provides inspiration for the spirit and the palette.
For more information, packages are coming soon online at www.visitcalifornia.com, www.shopcalifornia.org and www.shopamericatours.
USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region
Sierra Business Council
The Pacific Southwest Region of the USDA Forest Service and the Sierra Business Council (SBC) have signed of a memorandum of understanding, which establishes their partnership and acknowledges their shared vision and goals for the development of cultural and heritage tourism in the 22 counties and 25 million acres of the Sierra Nevada of California.
The Forest Service, through the Preserve America Program, is working to advance the protection, enhancement, and contemporary use of the federal historic properties, and promoting intergovernmental cooperation and partnerships for the preservation and use of historic properties. The SBC, with its membership of over 700 Sierra Nevada businesses, has the ability to cross jurisdictional lines and provide collaborative opportunities that link the area's 215 communities and the visitor economies on which they depend. They have demonstrated regional leadership on such issues as working farm and ranch conservation, heritage economy models, open space preservation, and smart growth planning.
The Sierra Business Council has organized and facilitated six sub-regional working groups, assisted in the planning and implementation of cultural tourism activities, and provided educational opportunities for the communities in the Sierra Nevada. The two entities plan to work together to tap into rural community knowledge and resources; build local skills and leadership capacity; and help communities improve their quality of life at the grassroots level.
The Forest Service and Sierra Business Council will continue this work at the Sierra Business Council Annual Conference, November 1-3 in Yosemite National Park www.sbcouncil.org.
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