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225 travel agents can't be wrong

Photo Credit: COURTESY: NORTHWEST TRADE ASSOCIATION - Lisa Ityel (center), global sales manager at Travel Oregon, gets excited with tour operators about the adventure and cuisine destinations in Oregon.Tourism is the largest export in the United States, commanding 25 percent of exportation’s economic impact.

In Oregon, tourism makes up 8 percent of that total, clocking in at $9.6 billion yearly and creating 94,000 jobs.

“There’s been a buzz about Portland, not only domestically but internationally,” says Jeff Miller, CEO of Travel Portland. “It really creates this buzz — I want to go there, I’ve never been!”

From Aug. 7-9, Travel Oregon and Travel Portland sponsored the National Tour Association’s Contact retreat. At 225 participants, it was the highest-attended event so far including the past two years, which were hosted in San Diego and Hawaii.

The NTA has members in more than 40 countries, connecting tour operators with hotels, restaurants, attractions and destinations. More than 90 tour operators from 40 states traveled to Portland to participate.

“The conference is vital because it’s an intimate casual event so that the tour operators are able to talk about business or partner with each other,” says Catherine Prather, interim president of the NTA. “They want to do business but they also have this very important connection to suppliers and the destinations such as Travel Portland and Travel Oregon so that they can learn about what’s new.”

Todd Davidson has been working for Travel Oregon since 1994 and is now the CEO.

“Oregon’s incredible natural beauty is so incredibly accessible,” says Davidson. “So having everything from these fertile agricultural valleys to the entirely public Oregon coast, the Cascade mountain range, the hikes — it’s just this incredible kind of diversity.”

During the three-day event, participants traveled to Astoria, Seaside, Multnomah Falls and Thunder Island. They fished, whitewater rafted, played golf, hiked, biked, shopped, and explored vineyards and breweries.

“The culinary scene kind of loops into the agro tourism, and it’s such a big part of our culture and heritage as well,” says Davidson. “So this whole idea of being able to come to Oregon ... and experience the wine, experience the craft brews, experience what is now becoming an expanding artisan distillery field.”

“Agriculture, culinary, activities and adventure — you can get all of that right here,” says Prather. “Those are the types of tourism our partners offer ... they want travelers of all ages and they go everywhere in the world.”

“Portland is the smallest market in the U.S. with both a nonstop to Europe and to Asia,” says Theresa O’Neill, the vice president of global sales at Travel Oregon. “While we don’t see first-time visitors (from China) to the states, we’ll definitely see usually the second- or third-time traveler.”

According to O’Neill, these tourists spend about $6,000 per trip per person, attracted by tax-free shopping and items like the U.S. version of Nikes that aren’t available in China. As the registration association for the Chinese inbound market, the NTA has more than 160 companies working on that niche.

“The domestic piece of (tourism, as opposed to international) is such a key because obviously we’re going to get a huge amount of our customers locally,” says Miller. “We’re able to sell the brand of Oregon and Portland by having people come here and see what we’re all about.”

From exhilarating to strengthening, outdoor recreational pursuits in Oregon’s gorgeous landscape are limitless.

“Whether you want to go backpacking or whitewater rafting or rock climbing — or you might be a golfer, a hiker — it’s just surreal,” says Davidson. “The cycling tourism in the state of Oregon generates $400 million.”

That number doesn’t even include gear.

“What truly is important for Portland and Oregon is that these tour companies, for years to come, will now continue to bring their travelers back to Portland and Oregon and contribute to the economy ... creating jobs and bringing in tax revenue,” says Prather.

For details of the tours, check out

#NTAcontact and #Road2PDX on Twitter.