Tourism isn’t all about ads

by Justin Aufdermauer
Executive Director

As we celebrate the upcoming summer solstice and the first official day of summer, I’m reminded that we are right on the cusp of the tourism season on the Oregon Coast. This is an important time of year for our local economy, as many of our businesses benefit from visitors who stay and shop here as part of their vacations.

I know tourism is often seen as a thorn in our sides, but that’s not the case at all. I want to take a moment to clear the air and talk a little bit about the work we do at the Chamber to make tourism work well to benefit our local community.

A common misconception is that all tourism promotion entails is advertising here and there, and efforts to bring more people to our area, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. So much of what local tourism agencies like the Chamber do is manage tourism growth, provide services to create a better experience and impart values on our visitors that make them better, more caring guests.

One way the Chamber does that is by providing a visitor information center. Located in downtown Tillamook in the same space as our regular Chamber office, the visitor center helps field questions from visitors and direct them to other resources or experiences here locally. The visitor center is filled with brochures, maps and rack cards — many of which feature local businesses and Chamber members.

The Chamber even plays a role in putting together some of those documents. For example, we design and publish the Tillamook Coast Venture Coastward visitor guide. This publication is a one-stop shop for information about Tillamook County, and it is distributed throughout the state of Oregon and beyond. In fact, we fill more than 15,000 leads to states all over the country every year.

One of my favorite things about the Venture Coastward guide is that is really drives home the idea that visitors should become “temporary locals” and take care of this place in the same way we do. We want visitors who care about our cultural heritage, decide to shop local and follow outdoor recreation etiquette like packing out what they pack in. If they have these values, their visit is less likely to be intrusive. They’ll feel like they fit with our local culture because they do!

That messaging is consistent in the Chamber’s tourism work. You may remember that we recently launched the Explore Tillamook Facebook and Instagram pages. Both pages highlight the authentic lifestyle of the Dairylands with beautiful photography and engaging posts. And they are specifically tailored to Tillamook’s farming and fishing personality, so our visitors know that we aren’t just any old coastal community. We have an identity all our own that revolves around hardworking and kind-hearted people who love each other and their home — and we want our visitors to act accordingly.

Community events also influence the tourism industry in our area. For example, the upcoming June Dairy Parade on Saturday, June 25, draws thousands of people to Tillamook. Yes, many of those are local families. But many others are friends and family of residents who choose to visit Tillamook that weekend because they want to participate in a beloved community tradition — that many of them grew up with! Others still are visitors who are stopping by and want to learn more about our dairy roots or simply watch what I believe is the best parade on the Oregon Coast! That’s something we can be proud to show off to our visitors.

We also welcomed visitors to the Cork & Brew Tour on June 17 and to the Tillamook Farmers Market, which opened on June 11 and operates through September. Both of these events emphasize local, whether that’s local brews from Pelican Brewery or Werner Brewing Company, or local produce grown by local farmers. It shows off the best that Tillamook has to offer. And it demonstrates that the reasons we love to live, work and play here are the same reasons our visitors want to stop by.

In our continuing effort to help give our visitors a better experience, we also are updating, which provides a comprehensive, visual look at all the attractions in the City of Tillamook and outlying areas. This website is an on-the-ground tool that not only shows how much there is to do in Tillamook, but also guides users directly to those attractions with an interactive map.

Every time we dig into our tourism tools, whether the visitor guide, event planning or the website, I’m humbled by all the things to do in central Tillamook County. There’s kayaking, clamming, crabbing, food trails, a quilt trail, artisan retailers, disc golf courses, hiking, museums, scenic routes, live theater performances, art exhibitions and so much more. We direct our visitors to all of those activities, keeping in mind that our locals love to do those things, too. We balance those interests, so all of the things that make Tillamook a great place to live or visit can remain for decades to come.