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Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce presents its annual update to the council, who accepts it without endorsing a particular alternative

The Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce presented its annual destination marketing plan before the Newberg City Council on June 18, with alternatives included that could possibly steer the Chamber away from its traditional duties of running the visitor's center toward a more comprehensive, regional direction for drawing tourists to the area.

And the Chamber budget for the visitor's center may continue, at least temporarily, without a contribution from the city of Dundee.

Chamber President Carr Biggerstaff presented an overview of the plan to the council. Last year, he said, the plan included research and marketing on wine, travel trends, geographical info, demographics and national trends. This year the plan has a different twist with a focus on planning, research and strategies to increase the city's tourism presence.

Biggerstaff highlighted the plan's destination marketing strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Based on last year's plan and subsequent research, the Chamber came to understand that tourists visit a region rather than a particular city. Because of this, they intend to partner with the tourism website Visit McMinnville and recognize other regional organizations.

"We do have some interesting opportunities that are happening in our region," Biggerstaff explained to the council. "One thing that I think that we learned from other destinations marketing organizations and our colleagues in other cities is that we do need to focus on tourism and marketing on a regional basis."

The Chamber faces other challenges as well.

"One of the things that has happened in the past year is that the destination marketing organization for our region, which is what was formally known as Travel Yamhill Valley, is defunct so that (presents) a gap between the information that flows from Travel Oregon visitor associations down to our regions and cities," he said.

Travel Oregon is an offshoot of the Oregon Tourism Commission, created in 2003 by the Legislature to strengthen the state's tourism industry.

Visitor's center

In 2015, the city of Newberg extended a contract with the Chamber to operate the visitor's center through June 2020. The Chamber provides the necessary staff, materials and services to represent the city in meeting with visitors and dispensing information.

This visitor's center is funded primarily through a portion of the proceeds from the city's transit lodging or room tax. Last year the city paid the Chamber $139,886 to operate the visitor's center; this year the budget calls for $145,342.

The city of Dundee is expected to put $2,500 toward the center as well. However, it's possible that Dundee will not contribute to the effort this year.

"We funded them in the past because they would promote us and give us our particular area to set up our own little Dundee display in the visitor's center," Dundee Mayor David Russ said. "Initially that was all wonderful and it was all great but in the last three to five years we lost our specific space in the visitor's center and we had one rack location. We go, 'What are we getting for our $2,500 bucks here?' Now, the chamber is saying we're not doing tourism anymore and we go 'Well, they don't need our money."

A new direction?

The Chamber's report stated, however, that it has not formed a three-year marketing plan and cannot agree on how to combine and spend the funds provided by the city. It has produced a list of three options for its standard destination marketing plan, which primarily include staying the current course; undertaking some of the current marketing plan tactics, but setting aside $20,000 to retain a tourism consultant to refine and enhance the plan; and using the funds provided by the city to hire a tourism director in partnership with the city's TLT Ad Hoc Committee, formed in 2016 by the Newberg City Council. The tourism director, according to the plan, would be responsible for event promotion and completing the Chamber's transition to a tourism-optimized website.

Fate of plan remains undecided

In the end the council passed a motion that accepted the Chamber's plan and recognized that it had met the terms of its contract for tourism services with the city. However, the council didn't endorse one of the three alternatives, choosing instead to await a recommendation from the TLT Ad Hoc Committee on a course of action. The TLT committee is expected, Biggerstaff said, to forward a recommendation to the council in the next 30 days.

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