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'Visit Wilsonville' to drive city's tourism strategy


The City Council unanimously adopted a tourism strategy that includes a direct marketing organization as key

by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Memorial Park, shown here, could be a future tourism attraction in Wilsonville. But so could many other things. And it's now up to a yet-to-be-created non-profit organization called Visit Wilsonville to help turn them into a coherent tourism development strategy in the future. After nearly eight months of work by a citizen task force charged with crafting a tourism development strategy virtually from scratch, the Wilsonville City Council last week formally adopted the results of their effort as policy.

By a 4-0 vote councilors approved Resolution 2468 at their May 5 meeting, thereby putting in motion the likely formation of a new nonprofit organization tasked with promoting tourism in and around Wilsonville.

The nonprofit will be the most noticeable aspect of the new tourism strategy in the immediate future. Eventually, it will look to coalesce a host of local attractions, industries and businesses into a unified Wilsonville brand. From agritourism to bicycling, conventions, sporting events and tournaments to the arts and the World of Speed auto-racing museum, the tourism strategy document identifies a diverse range of attractions to bring visitors to the city. Developed by Tualatin-based Total Destination Marketing, the strategy seeks to tap into Oregon’s $9.2 billion tourism industry by offering up Wilsonville’s unique location and mix of agricultural offerings and technology firms to create a new identity as a “premier destination city,” according to the document’s vision statement.

The strategy calls on the city to allocate a much greater proportion of revenue from its hotel room tax toward the new direct marketing organization (DMO). Even then, some councilors wondered aloud last week if that would be sufficient for a successful launch to the strategy later this year.

“How closely will the specifics of the strategy then be followed?” asked Mayor Tim Knapp. “Or, how much latitude will the group that is to carry the strategy out have to prioritize or make decisions?”

“It’s hard to say until you choose a model,” answered City Manager Bryan Cosgrove, who has gone on record repeatedly saying he does not want the city to be responsible for tourism promotion.

“Assuming you adopt the DMO model,” Cosgrove said, “some dollars would be earmarked for the endeavor and you have some performance measurements that you’d include in whatever agreement you come up with for the DMO, and hopefully you’d give them lots of flexibility.”

According to city Public and Government Affairs Coordinator Mark Ottenad, who oversaw the task force and served as a liaison to the city council, over the summer city staff will research various specific organizational models for the direct marketing organization, which now has the working name “Visit Wilsonville.” Whatever model is selected, the new organization will be run by a board of directors that is independent of City Hall.

Aside from that, however, the remaining details are still to be fleshed out.

“Already we are finding there are a number of variations on a theme regarding how a DMO can be set up and work with local government,” Ottenad said.

By fall, staff will take that research to local stakeholders and businesses, as well as the council, to decide on a final DMO model. After that, the council would have to formally approve creation of Visit Wilsonville and allocate a sufficient amount of revenue for it to operate.

Like Cosgrove, Knapp appeared wary of overt city involvement over the long haul.

“I’m not sure that council needs to be that intimately involved over time,” Knapp said. “I kind of see this as a duck trying to get airborne while they’re paddling along the water — they’re flapping their wings and eventually they get going; I think that providing some city guidance to that effort, some staff support, might be important to its success.”

Councilor Julie Fitzgerald served as chair of the tourism task force. She told colleagues last week that the city already will be indirectly funding the tourism effort by maintaining parks, roads and other infrastructure that caters to visitors, not to mention through its support for major events such as Fun in the Park or the Festival of Arts.

“We should try to fit them together and enhance support for tourism along the way,” Fitzgerald said. “That would be great.”

Not all the money for Visit Wilsonville has to come through city coffers, she added.

“I’d hope that it’s not all a city funded thing,” she said. “But we’re all, as much as we can, mobilizing our resources to get a greater overall result.”

To read the complete tourism strategy document, which outlines the stakeholders, attractions and more, visit ci.wilsonville.or.us/TourismDevelopmentStrategy.

By Josh Kulla
Assistant Editor / Photographer
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