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Heritage Tourism Success One Year Later

May 19, 2017

By Sarah LeCompte

Heritage tourism workshops held in eastern Oregon in spring of 2016 paved the way for a stellar year of visitation, with many heritage and cultural sites reporting visitation increases up to 15-20%.

Some of our staff at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center joined a work shop in John Day. If nothing else had happened, meeting staff and volunteers from other sites started a networking and awareness effort that is key to success in developing regional heritage tourism. What is going on, what does each site have to offer, and who to contact for more information provides the nuts and bolts that help answer visitors questions and interest them in staying in the region and visiting other sites. Participants worked together on developing itineraries, and figuring out travel times, visit times, visitor interests and budgets to attract visitors to try something new and different. Looking for opportunities to collaborate and cross market to build new audiences, they learned about the need to start connecting heritage attractions with other activities that might not seem compatible at first glance. Museum and brew pub? Historic sites and street fairs and bicycle rentals? Art gallery to museum to fishing spot?   It’s easy to get focused on promoting our own area of interest, and forgetting that most humans generally have more than one favorite past-time, and want a travel and vacation experience to match their unique set of interests. Workshop participants learned to think beyond traditional marketing profiles of “heritage” tourists, and realize that anyone of any age, economic bracket, and cultural background is probably a heritage tourist in waiting. Experience is a common word in tourism today. And authenticity. Both concepts that fit well with heritage attractions, and workshop participants considered the idea of marketing an experience rather than a tangible “thing”. And, perhaps particular to the slower pace and friendly attitude of eastern Oregon, that a personal first-person approach can have a huge impact. Word of mouth from an authentic “local” expert is almost always the most effective way to help a tourist feel comfortable finding that great cultural treasure down the street or in the next town down the road.

Our staff came back inspired with new ideas, and lots of information to share with visitors over the information desk throughout the summer. If a Heritage Tourism Workshop comes to your area this spring, it is time well spent to meet your tourism neighbors and start knitting together the great experiences for heritage tourists coming your way.

Spring 2017 Heritage Tourism Workshops
Succeeding with Heritage Tourism: Market Information, resources, and Ideas for Attracting More Visitors through Creative Collaboration

Ontario – June 7, 8:30-12:30, Four Rivers Cultural Center
Roseburg – June 15, 8:30-12:30, Jasmine’s Events Center
Preliminary Agenda


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