By editorial board • 

Long-term, city needs tourism marketing plan

Travel spending is on the upswing in Yamhill County, making this a great time to fund new tourism promotion programs from the city of McMinnville’s new transient lodging tax.

As we report today, total direct travel spending in Yamhill County has more than tripled since 1994. This rate bests the overall state growth during that time, which is about 250 percent for Oregon and for the broader Willamette Valley region. Multnomah County, despite the rise in Portland’s popularity, has seen only about a 120 percent rise in travel spending.

Significant increases in Yamhill Valley tourism over the past two decades can be attributed to the opening of two big-ticket tourist draws — Spirit Mountain Casino and the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum complex — and the dramatic growth of the wine industry and related visitor amenities.

While similar developments may be moving forward, we believe the next boom for local tourism needs to be the cities themselves. And McMinnville must lead the way. 

Tourists shouldn’t visit Oregon wine country and just happen to come across McMinnville. They should come to McMinnville as a base for their excursions to experience the wine, gaming, dining, aviation, biking, beaches, cities and other Northwest Oregon entertainment opportunities.

Sunday’s cover story in Parade Magazine will announce the winner of America’s Best Main Street competition, decided by an Internet vote-off between McMinnville and Collierville, Tennessee. For McMinnville, it could be a hugely valuable marketing boost just as the city is ready to spend lodging tax funds that began accumulating in January. 

A committee established to advise McMinnville City Council on allocation of the lodging tax portion designated for tourism promotion said its application process opens today with the release of request-for-proposal forms. Nonprofit organizations can submit applications through Sept. 30, followed by the advisory group’s allocation decisions.

McMinnville’s lodging tax ordinance, expected to produce more than $400,000 this year, requires that 70 percent of the proceeds be spent promoting tourism, with the rest added to the city’s general fund.

There is a long list of ways the money can be spent, from event promotion to visitor-friendly facilities. But advertising McMinnville and its central place in Oregon wine country should be at the top of the list.

We have one of America’s best small downtowns, a renowned craft food and beverage scene, big ticket attractions, a growing recreation sector, some great events for tourists and more. Now, it’s time to tell the country — in fact, tell the world.

To tell the story, we need a tourism plan marketing McMinnville as a core visitor center for all manner of activities amid the rural beauty of northwest Oregon wine country.

Upcoming individual grants for tourism-related projects can help move our travel spending needle forward. But the city also needs a coordinated, long-range planning effort to assess the community, develop effective tourism messages and carry out a widespread advertising effort. That’s what a good tourism marketing program is supposed to do.

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