Developing Authentic Experiences: Learnings from Travel Oregon

In this panel, led by Scott, we discussed the development of authentic experiences with Arica, Heather and Serena.

Each of the panellists started by providing a brief introduction to their organisations. Then, Arica explained that for the Oregon Coast Visitors Association stewardship means to educate visitors before they arrive in the region, for which they partner up with many organisations by means of achieving this objective.

In this panel, led by Scott Bricker, Travel Oregon's VP of Destination Development, we discussed the development of authentic experiences with Arica Sears, from the Oregon Coast Visitors Association, Heather King, from Willamette Riverkeeper, and Serena Bishop Gordon, from Visit Bend.

Each of the panellists started by providing a brief introduction to their organisations. Then, Arica explained that for the Oregon Coast Visitors Association stewardship means to educate visitors before they arrive in the region, for which they partner up with many organisations by means of achieving this objective.

Serena then explained that Visit Bend see their role as the 'stewards of Bend'. She then said they develop sustainability and stewardship around the social, economic and environmental pillars, which they employ to create their narratives and to engage with the community.

Lastly, Heather explained that Willamette Riverkeeper is an NGO that enforces the Clean Water Act to keep the water of the Willamette River clean and to protect the quality of its water. The way they enforce their mission is through adequacy, education and research, which they develop through different programmes. She then highlighted that they, for example, work with the tourism industry in Oregon by explaining that the Willamette River is a national scene of the water trail, which means it can be paddled to access different developments, which calls to ensure that the river is safe and clean for the community.

In your perspective, how does tourism impact stewardship?

Serena explained that through the work of Travel Oregon and other minds, they are developing new and creative ideas. She highlighted that Visit Bend have recently started the 'Bend Sustainability Fund', which is a grant programme that funds local organisations that work to protect steward and that develop the resources needed for people to have sustainable experiences in their outdoor spaces. They have also been developing regenerative trips so that people can visit Bend and experience it while giving back, which will benefit visitors, guides, organisations and the local community.

Heather then explained that the river is increasingly being known, which has resulted in more national and international travellers visiting it but also has allowed tracking how many people are using its waters. Nonetheless, this has also put a huge strain on the river, with pollution appearing amongst other consequences, which has required Willamette Riverkeeper to partner with other organisations to steward the river by monitoring pollution and keeping the river clean and healthy. They have also introduced programmes on how to sustain the river in its coexistence with tourism activities.

To finalise, Arica ran through some of the problems they dealt with pre-COVID, such as the pollution and harassment of wildlife, which they aim to solve through education and their work with land management organisations. She then explained how during COVID they saw an increase in the levels of littering and pollution, as people fled to coastal destinations. This has resulted in them looking for new tools and programmes to educate visitors in relation to pollution and climate change, amongst others. She wrapped her intervention by highlighting the importance of adequate messaging for stewardship and also the role of DMOs within the topic of sustainable transportation to stop climate change.

Serena jumped in to explain that transportation is the highest source of emissions, highlighting the need to make travel between places in the State more sustainable and environmentally friendly, but also the importance of educating and communicating travellers' responsibility.

What are your key initiatives for clear connections and communications?

Heather mentioned Willamette Riverkeeper's social media and workshops based on 'be safe out there and leave no trace’ in collaboration with parks and other outdoor spaces.

Afterwards, Serena explained how they create a consistent voice and message about sustainability that integrates with their strategy. Visit Bend have partnered with 'Pledge for the Wild', a non-profit organisation that helps them market the destination sustainably and allow communities to connect with non-profit funders.

Arica wrapped up the session by highlighting the Glasgow Declaration and how they encourage visitors to eat food provided by the local community, as this reduces the carbon footprint from the transportation of the food.


Key Takeaways

1. Collaboration between DMOs and NGOs and other organisations can take sustainability and stewardship to the next level.

2. It is crucial to educate travellers about the destination and how to diminish one's negative impact.

Published on:
December 2021
About the contributor

Scott Bricker

Scott Bricker is the Interim Vice President of Destination Development at Travel Oregon, working to create robust, sustainable destinations and tourism economies.

Arica Sears

Raised in the small community of Tierra Del Mar just north of Pacific City, Arica Sears is a sixth-generation Oregonian.

Heather King

Heather has been a part of the Willamette Riverkeeper staff for 4 years, starting as the Development Director and 2 years in becoming the Deputy Director.

Serena Bishop Gordon

Serena rides bikes really fast and also cares a lot about Bend, her home since 2005. Her favourite Bend adventure is a big day on the bike, whether riding single track or gravel.