Jacksonville endeavors to entice visitors

JACKSONVILLE — Europeans will learn more about this historic town when a travelogue to be shot next year debuts in early 2009.

Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce officials have committed to at least 7.5 minutes of time in a show that will air twice weekly on Travel Channel Europe over three years. Tourist businesses hope to capitalize on the strength of European currencies relative to the dollar.

"I spearheaded it in terms of being the most interested initially," said Cherie Reneau, who owns and operates the Elan Suites and Gallery. "The European market is so strong now and people are traveling a lot more to the States."

Reneau plans to purchase 90 seconds of time in the show to feature her establishment. Cost of time is $1,400 per minute. The chamber also will purchase time and other businesses are expected to participate. Reneau expects more to join as the rush of holiday activities subsides.

In addition to acquainting Europeans with the historic qualities of the town, the show could also highlight some of the 14 wineries along Highway 238, downtown shops, the Britt Festival, lodging and cuisine.

"Oregon isn't just flannel shirts and cowboy boots," says Reneau. "They'll do segments on things the people won't necessarily know about."

Oregon's Tourism Commission, doing business as Travel Oregon, has secured seven of 13 episodes in the series. Other episodes will focus on Southern Oregon, including Jacksonville, Central Oregon, the coast, metro Portland, the Columbia Gorge and American Indians. Each episode includes 24 minutes of air time for attractions.

Viewers in an estimated 48 million households in Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg will see the series, which will air in prime-time slots on a rotating basis.

Oregon native Jaimie Douglas of Prime Film Sites will produce the show. Douglas said Travel Channel Europe was curious about what other American areas she would recommend after she completed a 17-episode series on California for them.

"Travel Oregon saw the value and longevity and long term return on investment by having a show air for three years," said Douglas. While tourists would appear to be the primary target for a show, it is also a business development tool for the state.

"Once you start branding a location it also makes the location desirable for businesses and also import and export," said Douglas. Europeans will travel on weekends and typically spend five days in a destination, said Douglas.

"They are very curious about this young country of ours. They haven't really had the tools to travel in the States."

Besides the European broadcasts, featured attractions will be able to use video shot for the production for their own promotions. Each episode will be tied to a Web site that can be used for marketing and can be updated. A DVD box set of the series may also be offered for sale later, said Douglas.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland.

Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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