After 25 years in the tourism and travel industry, Brookings resident Barbara Ciaramella noticed a need for year-round support for local tourism businesses.
While the three-month period between Memorial and Labor Day always saw a boom in tourism, the other nine months left a lot to be desired, so Ciaramella reached out to the city and county for assistance, but received little help due to their limited budgets, she said.
Undaunted, Ciaramella decided to open up the Brookings Harbor Visitor and Tour Center at the Port of Brookings Harbor. The grand opening is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26.
Citing collaboration, partnership and transparency as her biggest goals, Ciaramella hopes to revitalize businesses in the area, and put Brookings-Harbor on the map as a go-to destination instead of a detour for travelers.
“As much as we’d like to think that people are coming to Brookings from all over the world just to come to Brookings, that’s not true,” she said. “They’re coming from all over the world to see the redwoods. When they come here, they find Brookings and we are like that little gem.
“What I hope to accomplish is to slow down that traveler so they can enjoy what we have to offer here, and maybe if they stay, they’ll support the local restaurants and so forth.”
Ciaramella’s center, located next to the port’s boardwalk, is adorned with accents of turquoise and yellow. Inside, visitors can find the same colorful motif expressed in alternating patterns among the walls, with a trio of slim HD monitors showcasing footage from beaches and wildlife. A set of iPads are available for people to book hotels.
The images displayed on the monitors contrast their surroundings. The room includes an assortment of beach charis and random decor, such as series a empty bird cages that line the ceiling. The ensuing aesthetic captures what Ciaramella hopes to achieve with the center: to bring Brookings-Harbor into the 21st century while preserving the antiquated charm of a city that boasts the highest capita of retired persons in Oregon.
“It’s a nice mix; it’s bringing in the new technology for younger people to adapt that with the information they come with, and it also helps the older residents because we’re live people that are going to be here to talk them through anything,” said Ciaramella.
“It’s not like they’re dealing with 100 percent automation, so you still have that friendly touch of customer service.”
The center offers free maps, tidebooks and park guides. Additionally, Ciaramelli is working with local companies that offer tours and rentals in specialize area such as kayaking, fishing or whale watching.
“I want locals that have a passion. If they like to do bird watching or mushrooming, or mountain biking, and would like to start a tour, I would help them put together a package we can offer together,” she said. “I’ve talked with my insurance company and they will have the ability to either help them or get them the right insurance, and they’ll be able to promote it through here.”
Ciaramella said interested tour guides and rental businesses would not have to pay her until she successfully booked a tour for them, noting it as a “win-win for everybody.”
While Ciaramella profits from the business, at the core of her mission is a strong commitment to helping the residents of Brookings-Harbor. She is happy to accept and hand out, free of charge, business cards to visitors looking for services.
The center will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., closing only for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The phone number is 541-813-2300.