DMO takes on tourism
Last updated 2/14/2023 at Noon
For 47 years, the Sisters Chamber of Commerce has supported and promoted local businesses. For part of that time, they also had a contract with the City of Sisters to act as the local visitors center, and promote tourism.
With the City contract came a certain percentage of transient lodging tax dollars collected by local hotels, motels, and short-term rentals on behalf of the City.
In recent years, a new concept for promoting tourism has evolved worldwide known as destination management, which goes far beyond just attracting tourists to visit Sisters. Of importance is how does Sisters attract/welcome visitors in a viable and sustainable way while also respecting the needs and wishes of full-time residents.
Tourism can’t be separated from larger systems at play in the community, such as affordable housing, transportation and traffic, public facilities, local economy, and livability and sustainability. Citizens don’t want the town “loved to death.”
Tourism is a big driver for the Sisters economy, requiring coordination, planning, and collective action that could determine the course of the community’s future for decades to come. Too much or too little could have dire consequences for the town. Overmarketing and overconsumption of local natural resources could trample them. A lack of tourists would hurt local businesses.
Greg Willits, Explore Sisters destination management oranization (DMO) board chair, believes they will be able to nimbly adjust marketing strategies to avoid such possibilities. Managed like a private-sector business, the DMO can respond rapidly to changes in the marketplace. With budgetary resources available, a stand-alone DMO board can approve shifts in a destination marketing plan rapidly if an opportunity presents itself (total solar eclipse) or a threat appears on the horizon (wildfire).
Tourism used to focus on the number of “heads in the beds.” Destination management is a growing trend that emphasizes connections, whether that be with the local people, businesses, culture, or food, and to leave places in a condition that maintains the locals’ quality of life and that future visitors can explore as well.
According to the articles of incorporation, the DMO’s primary purpose “is to increase livability and economic vitality through the development of intelligent management and stewardship of local (Sisters area) community natural and cultural resources, tourism, and outdoor recreation. The corporation will work to positively impact the City of Sisters community and surrounding areas through the advancement of tourism, and outdoor recreation, sustainability, and focusing on balanced four-season visitation and overnight stays.”
Explore Sisters is an independent 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization with its own board of directors and a recently hired executive director, Scott Humpert. They will be financed by the transient lodging tax (TLT), which is added on to the cost of every room that is rented out to visitors. The TLT provides a way to equip the DMO with the revenue needed to promote visitation to the region.
The public will be hearing more about Explore Sisters once their business and strategic plans are in place. There is a great deal of behind-the-scenes work going on at this time.
No longer acting as the visitors center, Sisters Chamber of Commerce will be able to devote all their time to activities supporting their members. Chamber members pay an annual fee to belong, with that money helping fund their activities.
The benefits to a business of joining the local chamber include networking opportunities with other businesses in the community and forming business relationships. When a business joins the Chamber, it will be listed in the Chamber’s online directory and could be highlighted in other Chamber publications. New business referrals may come through Chamber membership.
The Chamber exists to support the interests of its members. If there are proposed regulations that could impact small businesses, the Chamber will get involved.
When the Chamber was also acting as the visitors Bureau, they supervised creation of advertising promoting Sisters as a tourist destination, using the TLT funds. Their building served as a location where visitors could obtain brochures, maps, and information on places to see, dine, and stay. Staff attended trade shows to promote Sisters’ many attractions.
The contract between the City and Sisters Chamber of Commerce expired as of October 31, 2022. The Chamber vacated their old office on East Main Avenue and can now be found at 257 S. Pine St.