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City launches new campaign, website to attract visitors to region to encourage them to explore from the City

COURTESY PHOTO: ADAM MCKIBBEN/EXPLORE WILSONVILLE - Floating down the Willamette River is another tourist option in Wilsonville. The City of Wilsonville and its tourism committee have continued their push to bolster Wilsonville's reputation as a travelers' destination.

They recently revamped the tourism website, will consider studying the feasibility of an indoor city sports facility, and distributed a survey of people who visited Wilsonville during the summer.

Unlike the City's old tourism site, the new Explore Wilsonville site, developed by Vertigo Marketing, doesn't rely on other entities like Yelp and TripAdvisor to direct browsers to local attractions. Instead, it includes a "Pocket Trips" feature, which provides ideas for visitors based on categories such as "Family Time," "Farmlandia Fun" and "History & Heritage."

One pocket trip in the History and Heritage category is titled "Frolicking Through French Prairie Oregon," which suggests tourists visit Champoeg State Heritage Area, French Prairie wineries like Lady Hill Winery and the French Prairie Gardens, and provides a detailed description of each location. COURTESY PHOTO: RICH BACON/EXPLORE WILSONVILLE - The new Explore Wilsonville site suggests tourists visit Champoeg State Park while lodging in Wilsonville.

Many of the attractions listed on the site aren't actually located in Wilsonville, but Public Affairs Director Mark Ottenad said the site could help further the City's push to attract more tourists to stay overnight in Wilsonville hotels and, in turn, increase lodging tax revenue.

"Wilsonville is not generally known or thought of as mainly being a tourism destination or place for visitors to stay. However, we're located in the middle of many wonderful attractions," he said. "The thought was to promote Wilsonville as a great venue to stay for your overnight lodging while you then take in various attractions as day trips."

He added: "We offer a wide variety of overnight lodging options at reasonable rates with convenient access to many regional attractions."

However, Wilsonville's hotels are mostly full during the summer but have many more vacancies during the colder months, so the tourism committee is attempting to increase tourism in the fall, winter and spring.

One problem is that most attractions in the Wilsonville area are outdoor-oriented, though the Explore Wilsonville site promotes shopping at the Woodburn Outlets, Washington Square and Bridgeport Village and indoor attractions like the World of Speed motorsports museum.

More sports year-round

And that's where Wilsonville's long-term plans come into focus.

During the creation of the Tourism Development Strategy, the tourism committee named the development of an indoor sports facility for Wilsonville and a hotel conference center in the planned redevelopment of Town Center as future amenities that could bring people to Wilsonville, even when there's inclement weather.

Ottenad said the City's Parks and Recreation Department, which oversees tourism, is planning to propose the addition of $100,000 to the 2019-20 budget to study the possibility of the indoor sports facility.

"It seems both the tourism committee and City Council are very interested in providing more year-round sports fields. Our fields at Memorial Park and around the city are booked thoroughly throughout the summer and in the spring and fall," he said. "Sporting teams coming here could be a major source for lodging in Wilsonville."

Supply and demand

But, according to a recent survey facilitated by the tourism committee, the City's lodging options don't necessarily cater to the people who are staying there. While the annual income of Wilsonville's average tourist is over $100,000 — state average is $66,000 — the City currently does not have a four-star hotel. The survey said about a third of those people go to Wilsonville for events like equestrian shows or sports tournaments.

However, Ottenad points to the new Hilton Garden Inn that is slated to be built on the former Quality Inn site, at 30800 S.W. Parkway Ave., as a partial solution to the problem.

"It appears the new hotel is going to meet the demand that we've identified for higher-end housing options," Ottenad said.

Also in the survey, 79 percent of respondents spent the day in Wilsonville rather than staying overnight, the majority of respondents staying in Wilsonville rated the city as good or excellent, and 85 percent of respondents had previously visited Wilsonville during the summer.

However, only 2 percent of respondents recalled "effective messaging or slogans" related to tourism in the city. Along with the revamped website, Ottenad said the survey pointed to the importance of the City's plan to redo its signage and wayfinding, which will soon be considered by the City Council.

"It showed visitors wished they had more info about events that are happening in Wilsonville," Ottenad said.

The City will release results from its winter tourism survey in July.