Experience Mt. Hood and The Gorge Hosts Tourism Partner Meeting in Rhody
By Michelle M. Winner
Mt. Hood Territory, Hood River, West Columbia River Gorge, and The Dalles form the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Regional Tourism Alliance. At a November meeting in Rhododendron, the alliance unveiled its new branding logo and shorter name, “Experience Mt. Hood and The Gorge,” to attendees from the alliance regions, including those communities that comprise Mt. Hood Territory: Mt. Hood and Villages of Mt. Hood, Government Camp, Estacada, Sandy, and Boring. Lizzie Keenan, Experience Mt. Hood and The Gorge, Regional Lead, introduced an agenda that included a resident survey on tourism, Placer.ai visitor tracking, industry scholarships, and funding for local projects by nonprofits and associations. Travel, tourism and destination marketers, businesses, lodging, transportation and tour operators, neighborhood associations and nonprofits filled the room at Alpine Events.
Jake Jorgenson, COO of RRC Associates, presented his company's resident survey data. The survey was mailed to a sampling of the total resident population in each region selected by the algorithm and reached out to targeted residents by social media. Answering the question,” How long have you lived here?” fifty-four percent stated they had lived in the area for over 20 years, living in their home year-round. Answers in a section about the quality of life were “most interesting,” Jake added, “Thirty-six percent answered that their quality of life was declining, while thirty-nine percent responded that it was staying the same.” Responding to the multiple choice survey answer format, when asked what is essential to their quality of life, the number one answer was safety and security, followed by scenic beauty and environmental quality. One question asked about the most significant impacts or challenges affecting the residents. The “check all that apply” answer options included Short Term Rentals (STRs). A follow-up question asked which was the most critical issue to address by officials, and again, STRs were an answer option. According to Jake, an open-ended question about tourism and its effects drew some interesting comments from residents. “Inflation was the foremost challenge, followed by a lack of housing, especially in the Hood River Valley and The Dalles.
Impacts from climate change had a surprisingly high ranking.” View survey results here: https://www.hood-gorge.com/research-and-reports.
To promote what Experience Mt. Hood and The Gorge call “destination stewardship,” all the data will be available, including the new Placer.ai Community Reports (using phone ping tracking), to local regions. Data could help each region decide what is best for them. For example, Lizzie asked, “What if a region wants to promote shoulder season to increase tourism in their area, but it could be a double-edged sword?” In some areas, fifty percent of residents responding to the survey said they had to modify their behavior because of increased tourism. Some residents no longer visit Mirror Lake, Multnomah Falls, or Timberline Lodge. This finding provided a segue for Lizzie to introduce the Infinity Loop Map, which promotes less-visited regional attractions instead of well-known locations, lakes, waterfalls, or environmentally sensitive areas, to reduce overcrowding.
For info on the Infinity Loop Map, tourism data and survey, Strategic Investment Fund, Tastebound culinary tourism project, industry scholarships, 2023/2025 Regional Plan, and partner opportunities, visit www.hood-gorge.com.