Jeff Knapp: Booming tourism spells economic opportunity

Rusty Rae/News-Register##A farm house across from the Coeur de Terre vineyard off Eagle Point Road is surrounded by morning mist, a grove of maple and oak trees.
Rusty Rae/News-Register##A farm house across from the Coeur de Terre vineyard off Eagle Point Road is surrounded by morning mist, a grove of maple and oak trees.

It’s boom time in Oregon tourism. Never before have more people from around the globe been interested in visiting. 

According to Travel Oregon, the annual impact of tourism runs $11.8 billion. The industry directly generates more than 112,000 jobs and indirectly creates 56,900 more.

Data shows that for every $1 spent on marketing Oregon as a destination, the state collects $157 in visitor spending. Tourism has proven such a good investment for economic development that the state has prioritized our growing tourism market by increasing lodging taxes from 1 percent to 1.8 percent for four years, via House Bill 4146.  

What makes Oregon such an attractive place for visitors? Is it the diversity of natural beauty? Is it the abundance of food and beverage offerings? Is it the wonderland of outdoor recreation? Is it the fact we don’t have a sales tax? Is it our rich cultural and historical heritage?


Tourism in McMinnville is up as well. I’m sure you’ve seen it, felt it and heard about it.

You may have noticed people walking downtown in footwear clearly not built for function. You may have had a difficult time at a restaurant at certain times of the week. You may have overheard someone with an accent that certainly is not from the States.

Guest Writer

Jeff Knapp is the executive director of Visit McMinnville, the local tourism promotion agency. He also serves on the governing boards of the Yamhill County Tourism Partnership, Willamette Valley Visitors Association and TEDxMcMinnville. He and his family have made McMinnville their home for more than 10 years. In his free time, he enjoys cycling with his daughter and exploring other parts of the county.

Over the last 50 years, a sought-after industry has grown up around us. Based in our county’s agricultural roots, Oregon wine pioneers and newcomers have built an industry that now contributes $5.6 billion a year to the state’s economy. 

The Oregon wine industry is now mature. Thanks to its world-class reputation for quality, it attracts visitors from all over the world to work and play. And because it is based locally, it has become the number one tourism driver in our region.

In addition to wine tourism, our county features an abundance of diverse experiences interesting to tourists. Those offer the double benefit of improving the quality of life for our residents and making this an attractive area for new business.

Some potential opportunities for us to consider include:

Outdoor Recreation

Oregon’s number one tourism draw is the outdoors. And we have some of the most beautiful country in all of the United States right here in Yamhill County. 

Communities like Amity, Dayton and McMinnville have seen a rise in visitors looking to safely explore our area via bicycle. Dundee, Newberg and Dayton are stepping up to provide more public access to our river assets. Our official hiking trails are some of the most beautiful around, though in short supply.


We had a major win last year with the opening of the first phase of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass, making it easier and faster for visitors to get here. As much as it’s already helping, though, we need to complete the second and third phases to truly see the ultimate value for all.

We would benefit from additional transportation options, such as public/private shuttle services leaving Portland daily to connect visitors to Yamhill County towns. Once here, additional options to deliver guests around the valley from hotels to vineyards, galleries and retail outlets would benefit local businesses.

Why are more drivers in our county not signing up to be Uber or Lyft providers? The demand is here year-round, and local entrepreneurs could fill it.


There are big opportunities for our region to benefit year-round from group visits.

How can the county leverage its festivals, conventions and sporting events to provide more jobs, fill more hotels and bring more dollars to our local businesses? How do we maximize the assets we currently have, if not create more? 

A 2017 report from Johnson Consulting shows our county fairgrounds could be a prime location to build out infrastructure to support this type of efforts.
For those who fear tourism, I leave you with these thoughts.

The main industry driving tourism in our region is already here and continuing to expand. It is up to us to help steer the response as our county grows.
We have the opportunity to leverage the impact of tourism dollars to improve the quality of life for people who live here and make it more attractive for the opening and operation of businesses. 

I found McMinnville as a tourist 16 years ago. I fell in love with the town.

Now I have the chance to raise my children here, contribute to the tax base and give back to my community, in order to help McMinnville become an even better place to both live and visit. Won’t you join me?



Staff photographer Rusty Rae contribued an exquisite photo to accompany the piece. The more you blow it up, the more stunning the impact. I wish we could have run it larger.


Well done Mr. Knapp!

Scott Gibson

Great photo, and very fine Viewpoint cover. Well written and nice to see such good news.

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