Kevney Dugan’s tenure as CEO of Visit Bend, now drawing to a close as he moves to Travel Oregon, leaves a lasting legacy. His leadership since 2010 has been pivotal in helping harmonize Bend’s economic growth with responsible tourism development, creating a vibrant community impact that resonates well beyond his tenure.
When Dugan joined Visit Bend in 2010 as the director of sales, the city was emerging from a housing crisis and a recession. The community was eager to rekindle its economic vigor, facing a landscape of instability and uncertainty. Faced with these challenges, the key question arose: How could Visit Bend collaboratively reignite the city’s economy and revive its vibrant spirit?
During Dugan’s early years at Visit Bend, he helped bring large-scale city-wide championship sporting events to Bend. Between 2010 and 2015, Bend hosted 23 National Championships, symbolizing its cultural fit and outdoor recreation lifestyle, for which the city is now renowned.
In 2016, Dugan stepped into a new role, succeeding Doug La Placa as CEO of Visit Bend. Dugan helped steer Visit Bend beyond its traditional role as a sales and marketing entity, focusing instead on community engagement and diverse economic initiatives. Introduced in 2021, the Bend Sustainability Fund (BSF) reinvests visitor-paid lodging tax into local projects to foster sustainable community experiences in Bend, balancing economic, social and environmental needs, reflecting Visit Bend’s commitment to not only bolster the local economy but also to listen and respond to the community’s needs. It has since given nearly $3 million to grantees.
Visit Bend continues to evolve. “We were designed to be this sales and marketing machine that brought people here and got them to reinvest dollars and bolster the economy. Now, with the diversity of grant programs or strategic partnerships programs or the fully built-out marketing team that can support local businesses, we just have way more avenues to say yes and address community and industry desires than we did before.”
This transformation was not a solo effort. Dugan credits the unwavering support of the board of directors and the team at Visit Bend, who, Dugan highlights, “does not take ‘no’ easily and is always looking to evolve and innovate and find ways to become the organization we think we need to be for the community.” Embracing this innovative thinking, other destinations facing similar growth pains began looking to Bend as a model, admiring its holistic approach to tourism, community engagement and sustainability. The shift from mere marketing and promotion to a community-centric approach set a new benchmark in the industry.
It’s also vital to recognize the tangible economic benefits brought by the tourism industry generates $500 million in tax revenue, two-thirds of which is retained by the city. This translates to over $10 million annually feeding into Bend’s general fund, supporting essential services like street maintenance, police, fire and public safety. Far from merely enhancing Visit Bend’s budget, which primarily comes from a transient room tax (TRT) paid by visitors staying in short-term lodgings like hotels and vacation rentals in Bend, these efforts have injected significant economic value into the community — from direct spending of $500 million yearly to creating around 3,500 jobs. Such financial contributions underscore the importance of a sustainability model that intertwines economic prosperity with social and environmental considerations.
As Dugan prepares to join Travel Oregon as their vice president of Destination Stewardship, he reflects on his journey at Visit Bend. He believes the organization is poised for continued success, with a strong team in place that needs a new leader to carry forward the vision. According to Dugan, “One of the things I love about this community is it cares a lot, and it requires someone accountable to the work done in the tourism industry. Whoever comes in has to be ready to engage with the community in a very humble, authentic way otherwise, I think the community will see through someone who is not operating with integrity.”
Dugan’s new role presents an exciting challenge: to apply his learnings from Visit Bend to a diverse array of communities across Oregon, each at different stages of their tourism life cycle. His experience in developing partnerships, like with Leave No Trace, and initiatives like the BSF, will be invaluable in fostering destination stewardship statewide.
During his time at Visit Bend, Dugan values the strong and cohesive team as a significant achievement. He remarks, “The ability to work with these people day in and day out, and build such a dynamic, smart, bright, passionate team, has been the most rewarding part of the job.”
As Dugan embarks on his new journey with Travel Oregon, his time at Visit Bend points the organization on a path toward community engagement and sustainable growth. His departure is not just a turning point for him but also for Visit Bend, which now looks ahead to a new chapter, building on the strong foundation laid over the past decade.