In 2016, the Rural Klamath Connects Network (known then as the Basin Revitalization Network) collaborated with South Central Oregon Economic Development District (SCOEDD) to apply for a Travel Oregon Rural Tourism Studio award. The Rural Tourism Studio (RTS) is a training program designed to assist Oregon communities that have identified tourism development as one of their priority economic development strategies. The program assists rural communities with the development of their tourism industry in a way that will help stimulate the local economy, protect and enhance local natural and cultural resources, and foster pride among participants. Our application was successful and the Basin’s RTS workshops will begin in the fall of 2017.
The goals of the Rural Tourism Studio program are to:
- Raise the awareness and understanding of the value of the tourism industry and important trends
- Engage a broad cross-section of the community, including civic and business leaders, in a dialogue to identify strengths and opportunities for capitalizing on trends in the tourism industry
- Spark creativity and enthusiasm in community leaders to contribute to making Oregon a premiere tourism destination
- Connect community and business leaders with resources to help develop new authentic tourism products and leverage the assets they have
- Develop tourism experiences and products that sustain or enhance the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents
- Stimulate new local business development
- Establish positive relationship between community leaders and the state’s tourism development and marketing organizations
Communities participating in the program will come away with:
- A vision for tourism in the region
- A set of priority actions for tourism development in key niche markets
- A comprehensive list of tourism assets upon which to build
- Engaged project leaders at the local level who can take workshop outcomes and manage the timeline, partners, and project deliverables
- Momentum on at least one new project that can begin immediately following the program
- Preferred applicant status for the Travel Oregon annual Matching Grants Program for up to $20,000
The workshop series will be customized to fit the needs of our communities in the Basin. We have been discussing workshops topics such as Regional Branding/Marketing, Agri-Tourism, Cultural Tourism, and Recreational Tourism. Travel Oregon is working with a local steering committee to customize the program curriculum and make final decisions about the workshop focus. Our local steering committee includes business and civic leaders, a representative from each of the five communities in the Rural Klamath Connects Network, a representative from the Lava Beds, a significant tourism destination in our region, SCOEDD and Discover Klamath, (our Destination Marketing Organization or DMO). Because this is an Oregon program funded through lodging taxes, yet the Network includes two California communities (Butte Valley and Tulelake), additional funds were raised by the Network to support California’s participation. The Siskiyou Economic Development Council is also engaged in this process. The steering committee will host the program and communicate with residents in our region.
We hope to involve 25-50 participants representing diverse perspectives and a broad cross-section of community leaders from across our region. We are encouraging participation from small businesses, entrepreneurs, tourism industry professionals, community planners, economic development professionals, public land managers, elected officials, non-profits with social, environmental and cultural missions, and community volunteers representing all segments of the population from youth to community elders.