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Tourism report identifies key local markets,attractions

by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Equestrian events and horse-related businesses likely will be a key component of Wilsonvilles forthcoming tourism promotion strategy. Developing a long-term strategy for promoting tourism in Wilsonville is turning out to be trickier than it first appeared.

From deciding which attractions to promote to the ongoing rivalry between the Wilsonville Area Chamber of Commerce and the city, the members of a citizen task force charged with drafting a tourism strategy are having trouble agreeing on how best to proceed. As a result, a draft strategy document recently released by Total Destination Marketing remains long on questions and short on specifics.

“When you start on a project like this, nobody has the answers,” said Bill Baker, a consultant who is heading up the study and is lead author of the draft. “It’s a constant journey — we didn’t make stuff up, we found a lot of stuff out there.”

The main questions that remain to be answered, Baker said are “What does Wilsonville want to be known for? How will it be presented? How does it stand out from other competitor choices?”

The Draft Wilsonville Tourism Development Strategy, presented March 20, identifies five priority markets the city should focus on:

n Horse show participants and organizers

n Meeting and convention participants and organizers

n People on Pacific Northwest getaways

n Sports tournaments participants

n I-5 motorists in transit

In terms of where those people will go and what they will do in Wilsonville, the draft report lays out a series of “attractors and experiences” the city should promote, including:

n Agri-tourism involving local farms

n Vineyards and related businesses

n Promoting the city as bike-friendly and catering to bike infrastructure and events

n Equestrian events and attractions, including establishment of a signature event for the city

Finally, the report recommends the city form Visit Wilsonville, a nonprofit dedicated to boosting local tourism. As proposed, it would be overseen by an independent board of directors comprised of key tourism stakeholders and community leaders.

Part of Wilsonville’s renewed focus on tourism has to do with the demise of the former Visitor Information Center at Town Center Park. Under state law, the city must spend at least 40 percent of lodging tax revenue on promoting tourism.

In the past, running the visitor center helped Wilsonville meet this requirement. Now, however, as the city continues to collect lodging taxes, it needs a new place to legally spend that revenue. In 2012-13, the city took in just over $242,000 in room tax revenue while spending $89,250 on the visitor center, just shy of the required 40 percent.

The draft report recommends an initial budget of just over $288,000 for Visit Wilsonville. Of that amount, 87 percent — some $250,000 — is envisioned as coming from public coffers. The rest would come from private donations. To hit that figure, the city would likely have to spend most or all of its lodging tax revenues on promoting tourism.

That idea has plenty of support, although it theoretically would divert revenue away from other programs funded through the general fund and other areas of the city’s budget.

“Forty percent of [transient room tax] dollars being spent on tourism is not enough,” said task force member Jeff Green, general manager of the Wilsonville Holiday Inn. “Sixty percent is not enough. If you want to be serious about this, it’s going to have to go up. I know that compromises other things, but we’ve got to figure that out.”

Wilsonville Family Fun Center General Manager Darren Harmon agreed, saying he would like to see the city spend 70 percent or more of that revenue stream on tourism.

Task force member Danielle Cowan, director of Clackamas County Tourism and Cultural Affairs and former public and government affairs director for the city of Wilsonville, said the culture of Wilsonville has never been geared toward tourism.

“It was the culture in Wilsonville,” Cowan said. “’Tourism? We don’t have it here.’ My job was to make it 40-60, and it’s now 70 percent tourism for new taxes statewide; if you were going to change anything that’s the minimum you could do, and 40 percent tells me you aren’t very serious. I understand it’s going to squeeze someone at the other end, but the police are not a tourism service.”




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