City council is listening to a presentation by Travel Portland this morning: $3.8billion was generated in the Portland Metro region from tourism and visitors last year. That supported 30,500 jobs, generated $62million in local taxes, $80million in statewide taxes. $589million was spent in eating establishments, and $552million on lodging. $98million was spent on cultural tourism. Every dollar spent on marketing the city nationwide returns $45, according to analysis by Travel Portland.
Travel Portland is working on getting commercial "meeting planners" to come to town, so it can woo them with our Oregon Coast, our Mount Hood, our Japanese Garden, and so on. There's a "twisitor center" for Portland, with more than 12000 followers. Visitors asking questions with the hashtag #inpdx can ask questions of real Portlanders, and the idea has generated press as far afield as Australia.
The organization has been doing a good job of getting us into national newspapers, it says, hosting 129 travel writers and editors for "research tours," last year, generating $10.1million in positive coverage, it says—a figure that is worked out by calculating what it would cost to advertise in those publications. The highlight was a 7-page article in the French version of Glamour magazine, dubbing Portland "La Ville La Plus Cool Du Monde!" (Snarky interpretation of this at cultureshockpdx.blogspot.com—"it contains some real gems. For instance, how easy it might be to mistake Cannon Beach for Rio de Janiero.") Travel Portland is still working out how to monetize the coverage it gets on blogs, incidentally, because it's difficult to figure out what it would cost to advertise on those. If any of us could figure that out, we'd be sitting on a beach by now, of course, but it's a big question for groups like Travel Portland across the nation right now.
Vice President of communications Deborah Wakefield says the organization led 15-20 journalists on "hosted" tours last year, where the journalists were flown out and given complementary rooms in local hotels and taken to restaurants to eat free Oregon food. Stickler for journalistic ethics(TM) that I am, It occurred to me: Is that like buying positive press? "We always ask people what their editorial policy is before we work with them," says Wakefield—saying most daily newspapers have a policy against accepting anything for free. But Travel Portland might help with background research or photos. Some magazines are more flexible than others on accepting "journalistic discounts" of around 50%, and then, presumably, there are those who just love nothing more than a nice old junket.
I would be tempted to categorize myself in the junket category, I think. But only if the title of my column was: "Full Disclosure—Matt Davis flies to a bunch of cities for free." There's never an agreement that there will be positive coverage as a result even of a hosted tour, says Wakefield. "All I ask is that people give Portland a fair shake."
Travel Portland has developed a "green meetings toolkit." "By the very nature of hosting your convention in Portland, it's going to be green and sustainable," said one of the representatives from Travel Portland this morning—presumably forgetting the fact that everyone will have flown here on jet planes pumping out pollution? That sounded a bit like greenwashing, to me, so I asked Wakefield, whether we could really market ourselves as sustainable if people are flying here?
"Flying is not an earth friendly activity," Wakefield admits. "But if you're coming to a city like Portland you're connecting with that green culture that just runs through everything. So people get inspired to go back and maybe become leaders on these issues in their own communities."
Travel Portland is also working on making Portland "the world's first certified urban sustainable destination," next year. That will include an education and leadership development component, Wakefield says.
More from Wakefield via email this afternoon:
Our media outreach budget for fiscal year 2009-2010 is $64,481. This amount includes hosting writers in Portland, as well as sending staff to California (LA and San Francisco) and New York to make in-person media calls on selected journalists/outlets. It also covers one staff member’s attendance at a North American media marketplace. So, a chunk of that money goes toward out-of-Portland activities.