If you’ve felt like your favorite trail, coffee shop or brewery has been more crowded than usual, there’s a good reason for it. For the past two years, Bend’s tourism industry has been booming.
In 2012 and 2013, the Bend tourism industry achieved record highs in every tourism metric available. The overall economic impact of tourism in Central Oregon is now estimated to be more than $600 million annually. In addition to direct visitor spending, tourism also creates an important long-term economic benefit by attracting new residents and new companies to the region.
Despite this strong and consistent growth, Bend’s tourism industry will have to fire on all cylinders to continue the momentum through 2014.
The new year will present Bend’s tourism industry with five primary opportunities. How we as a community address these opportunities will have a significant impact on our ability to achieve continued growth in this important sector of our economy.
Key Tourism Opportunities of 2014
Increase Winter Tourism: Despite the strength of Bend’s tourism industry, the winter months continue to perform substantially below summer months. In order for Bend’s tourism industry to continue to grow, we must find new ways to attract additional winter visitors.
Expand Marketing Reach: With more than 70% of Bend’s visitors coming from the West Coast, Bend continues to be primarily a regional tourism destination. While the West Coast will likely always produce the majority of our visitors, long-term growth will require cultivation of new markets, inviting new travelers to visit and invest in our city.
Diversify Tourism Offerings: Outdoor recreation and sightseeing continue to be the primary purpose of visitation to Bend. Everything we can do to diversify our tourism offerings will make us stronger as a destination. Cultivating Bend’s cultural tourism, brewery tourism, and college-related tourism are important objectives for long term growth.
Enhance Recreational Assets: Outdoor recreation is the foundation of Bend’s tourism industry. Continued cultivation of Bend’s recreational assets will help ensure our destination remains compelling and competitive.
Group & Event Tourism: Tourists visiting Bend as part of an organized group or event represent a small percentage of total visitors. However, they fill an important niche and help drive tourism during the slower shoulder seasons. Whether they’re part of a business, social, or athletic group, courting more group travelers to Bend will help ensure long-term growth.
These five key opportunities serve as the compass for Visit Bend’s 2014 business plan. Each opportunity will be pursued by a comprehensive list of strategies and tactics through 2014 and beyond. To view Visit Bend’s 2014 business plan, go to www.visitbend.com/businessplan.
Bend’s tourism industry has been enjoying a prolonged and prosperous run. While the outlook for 2014 is optimistic, the bar has clearly been raised. It will require continued creativity, innovation, and hard work to ensure Bend’s tourism industry can maintain sustainable growth for years to come. The Visit Bend staff and board of directors are confident the industry will rise to the challenge.
Doug LaPlaca is president/CEO of Visit Bend
750 NW Lava Road, Suite 160