Travel Oregon, the state’s tourism office, has released a 10-year draft transformational strategy for the Oregon tourism industry. Some cycling and transportation advocates think this could be a good opportunity to push the agency to promote car-free tourism and biking as part of its strategy.
Travel Oregon appears to want to make a dramatic change to its mission statement through this new strategy – the draft report says it will “reach beyond our typical purview and include long-range outcomes.” It says they’ve adopted two lenses to view the planning process through: a racial equity lens, which asks how decisions around Travel Oregon’s work may contribute to racial equity or inequity and how they can mitigate that impact; and a destination stewardship lens, which asks about the long-term consequences of Travel Oregon’s work in particular destinations and how they can contribute to long-term well-being of those destinations and the residents who live there.
Advocates say Travel Oregon needs to seize this opportunity to promote Oregon’s cycling culture, especially given the increasing popularity of e-bikes, which make it easier to travel longer distances by bike.
Steve Gutmann, a Portland-area transportation activist and carshare expert who currently works for Forth, shared feedback he sent to Travel Oregon. Gutmann says “bicycling is enjoying the exploding popularity of e-bikes, and bikes have long been core to Oregon’s ‘brand,’ but bicycling still seems to be at the periphery of the state’s tourism spend.”
“Hardly anyone we know had heard of or ridden Crown-Zellerbach Trail until we found it online,” Gutmann wrote in his comment, as an example of an excellent potential tourism asset that could use the agency’s investment and marketing muscle.
He suggests Travel Oregon encourage biking by providing support for small-town e-bike sharing and actively promote the use of the e-bike sharing programs in these small towns and in Portland to both Oregonians and out-of-state tourists. He also suggests Oregon could take the lead of other tourism destinations to promote car-free travel.
One of Travel Oregon’s stated objectives in this draft strategy is to “work towards a regenerative future” and mitigate the climate impact caused by the tourism industry. Gutmann says Oregon has an opportunity to show it’s possible to travel to some of the most popular destinations around the state without a car, helping lower the carbon emissions that come from people driving all around Oregon to get to tourism destinations.
For example, all Portland-area Ducks fans who want to travel to Eugene to see a football game at the University of Oregon should know they can avoid the congestion on I-5 notorious on game days by taking the train and using bike share to get to the stadium when they get there. (Vice versa for Willamette Valley Blazers and Timbers fans who want to come up to Portland to see a game!)
There’s also the opportunity to invest in rail-trail projects. We have reported on the Salmonberry Trail project from the Portland metro area to the Coast, and members of the Historic Columbia River Advisory Committee want the Oregon Department of Transportation and Forest Service to prioritize bikes and transit over cars in the Gorge.
Travel Oregon has a very good track record of putting bicycling front-and-center in its tourism development plans. Now is the time to go big!
If you’d like to encourage Travel Oregon to put bicycling back on top of their strategies, you can leave a public comment online until 5:00 pm today (Monday, February 21st). After the public comment period, the Oregon Tourism Commission plans to adopt a final strategy on March 14.
Taylor has been a BikePortland’s staff writer since November 2021. She has also written for Street Roots and Eugene Weekly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org