Group begins tourism endeavor
Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer   
December 05, 2012 09:16 am

The eight citizens of the Brookings Tourism Marketing Advisory Committee (TMAC) got a taste of what they’re in for after they met for the first time last week to discuss everything from how often they’ll meet to what they’ll offer to the city council to lure more visitors to the city.

The eight-person committee was formed this fall after the city of Brookings and the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce ended their contract together after many years.

It includes Bob Pieper, owner of Hearth and Home; Brent Siebold, park manager at Harris Beach State Park; Jeremy Small, manager of Harbrook Jewelers in Harbor; Peter Spratt, a tax attorney and manager with the Brookings Inn and Flying Gull Restaurant; Barbara Ciramella, a realtor; Tim Patterson, owner of the Redwood Theater; and retirees Joe Willett and Candice Michel.

The TMAC is tasked with offering recommendations to the city council on how to spend the money generated – about $37,000 a year – in transient lodging taxes.

During its first meeting the group discussed its options about its mission, priorities, partnerships – even segued into details such as events and park benches.

The group did decide to ask council to hold off on a final decision to use some of the transient tax funds to redesign city hall and create a visitor’s center. Some members noted that there are three such centers already – at Harris Beach and Crissey Field state parks and at the chamber in Harbor.

The TMAC could have its work cut out for itself, depending how detailed it wants to get in spending the money. For instance, it could merely recommend to council to hire an outside firm to do the promotional work, or it could undertake everything itself.

The TMAC could task itself with defining target audiences and determining which medium in which to advertise – even opt to spend money on infrastructure to showcase the city’s charm.

“We need to look outside the box,” Michel said. “It’s people who aren’t going to Mexico, who aren’t going to Hawaii. They’re the ones who will take that trip up the Oregon coast.”

And there are numerous agencies that overlap the area with which the group could work: the Southern Oregon Visitors Association, Oregon Coast Visitors Association, the Port of Brookings Harbor, state and national parks and numerous regional and statewide groups, among them.

“We need to look at partnering with our neighboring cities, but also the Port,” said Mayor Ron Hedenskog, outlining big-picture issues the group needs to know. “The Port is a significant part of tourism and promotion. The Port is the gem of our city, and we have some nice gems.”

Another element they might consider, he said, is that Bandon Dunes is reaching out to work with neighboring cities – and its proposed southern border is Brookings.

“They’ve got money,” he said. “And they’ve got tourists coming in. We should be talking with them.”

Del Norte County is reaching north to include Brookings, as well.

Hedenskog outlined the possibility of incorporating Highway 101 into the state’s Scenic Bikeways program, further exposing the recreational opportunities here.

“This is significant because of the national attention it’s getting,” Hedenskog said. “It’s a sleeper thing I think we should look at.”

There is a lot of information – surveys, demographics, visitor numbers – through which to cull, as well.

“You need to market all bases,” said Ken Bryan, president of the chamber and owner of Wild Rivers Lodge. “It’s a moving target; it’s constantly changing. I’ve got seven rooms filled tonight, and if you asked, they have five different reasons for being here. People aren’t traveling as far, but they’re still traveling.”

Bryan submitted an application to join the TMAC after the committee had been named, but was in the audience to garner information and offer ideas.

Some TMAC members indicated they wanted to work on customer service issues in town, while others were pushing for getting the “best bang for their buck” in advertising. Some talked about flower boxes and benches, while others wondered if the Port’s empty building could be transformed into a convention center.

Competition – be it from Jerry’s Rogue River Jet Boat Trips in Gold Beach or the 70-room addition to Lucky 7 Casino under development in Smith River – are also part of the equation, they agreed.

Other ideas the TMAC discussed included extending an offer to high school students to create a YouTube video about Brookings, bringing back the bears, a possible Harbor annexation and hosting athletic tournaments, among others.

 “This isn’t as easy as ‘build it and they will come,’” Spratt said. “There’s already enough here for people to come to see. It’s just, do we have enough to keep them busy.”