By editorial board • 

Time for local travel industry to move beyond the vine

Yamhill County is home to one of the most heralded wine tourism regions in the country. Now what? 

That’s the question local tourism stakeholders need to ask. The culinary and craft beverage scene will continue to evolve and expand, but to foster exponential tourism growth going forward, the county will need to set its sights on travelers of all stripes, not just consumers of fine wine and food fare.

While the eye test would have one believe local travel spending is rising at a rapid clip, a report prepared last year for Travel Oregon undercuts that contention. The report indicates travel spending in the county increased just $2.5 million between 2012 to 2014, when it stood at $115.6 million. Comparing that to 2010-12, when local tourism spending shot up $19 million, or 2009-11, when it rose$14 million, suggests a leveling off.

Yamhill County ranks 10th in population, but only 18th in tourism spending in 2014, among the state’s 36 counties. Thanks to the Spirit Mountain Casino, the state’s No. 1 tourist destination for many years running, neighboring Polk County rang up a much more impressive $164.8 million in 2014.

It may be that other counties are catching up to Yamhill on the wine and food front, at least in relative terms. Thousands of tourists continue to discover the Yamhill Valley each year, but perhaps a growing share of those who have already visited are moving on to emerging wine destinations like Southern Oregon’s Rogue and Umpqua valleys and the Columbia River Gorge, which pair scenic wonders with their vineyards. 

“Increasingly, the wine-loving lifestyle is being combined with other pursuits,” said Emily Grosvenor, a McMinnville travel writer, in an interview for the upcoming Indulge Yamhill Valley travel guide. “If we want to compete, then we need to do more than just make and serve wine.”

In recent years, local business entities have taken steps to attract more cycling tourism, one of the fastest growing segments in Oregon. That’s just one example of a value-added element serving to draw additional lifestyle travelers.

Hopefully, local companies will continue with these efforts, positioning themselves to capitalize on the promise of the Yamhelas Westside Trail. The Yamhill Valley can also benefit, from a business standpoint, by boosting its retail sector and finding more outspoken champions for arts, entertainment and recreation offerings. 

The wine and food scene will remain the county’s greatest tourism asset for years. But it needs plenty of supporting activities to reach its full potential.



Why not offer foodie tours that include farm & vineyard tours that end with a "Farm to Fork" meal with local chefs preparing a meal with ingredients from the farm, vineyard, etc.?

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