Californians, Oregonians visit Southern Oregon

Californians and fellow Oregonians are still the most prevalent tourists in seven Southern Oregon counties. Foreign visitors have more than doubled in the past 15 years. And tent camping is on the decline.

Such were the findings of a survey, the most complete profile on local tourism to date, presented to the Southern Oregon Visitors Association on Monday at its 12th annual Marketing Symposium.

A summary of the 500-page report compiled by DCG Research was given to tourism officials at the Historic Ashland Armory by consultant Mark Dennett.

The seven-county study that included 5,317 interviews surpassed a four-county, 4,000-interview survey in 1991 and revealed long-term trends.

"It's surprising how some things have not changed," Dennett said. "In 17 years, the market has remained pretty consistent."

In 1991, Californians made up 38.7 percent of the Rogue and Umpqua Valley's visitors; now it's 35 percent. In-state travelers accounted for 26.9 of the visitors in 1991, 25 percent now. International travelers, however, jumped from 5.3 percent in 1991 to 11 percent now.

"San Francisco is a big gateway for Japanese and Asian travelers and Lufthansa flies to Portland now, but we haven't broken it down beyond anyone living outside of the United States," Dennett said.

Klamath and Lake counties had an even-higher level (17 percent) of international travelers, while the South Coast had just 2 percent.

"I'm assuming Crater Lake is an important reason for that higher number," Dennett said. "The cowboy and Western is also really popular to some foreigners, too."

Perhaps the biggest shift during the interim between studies came in how visitors plan their trips.

"Back in 1991, 47.9 percent of the people said they relied on past experiences or maps for planning," Dennett said. "The Internet is now by far the tool driving planning, at 35 percent. Today, 12 percent say they use local brochures and maps and 14 percent rely on past experience. People trying to attract visitors to Southern Oregon have to be Web savvy."

Carolyn Hill, chief executive of the Southern Oregon Visitors Association, said the document will provide years of opportunity for marketers.

"We can drill down on all kinds of information about how much visitors are spending a day, what they are spending it on, which direction they're coming from and how they got information about choosing this destination," Hill said. "We can find out what kind of lodging they're in, what attractions they're visiting and what things they are going to do."

Dennett noted marketers need to define themselves as part of Southern Oregon because of the region's strong brand awareness, while emphasizing historical features in the area.

Nearly three in 10 visitors camped while they were visiting in 1991. Today that number has slipped to one in 10 and fewer in some counties.

"The people who used to camp are now staying in hotels and or in RVs," Dennett said. "They're not sleeping on the ground anymore. The RV market is more important than the international market to Southern Oregon. Therefore, it is important that visitor centers are RV parking-friendly, and offering high-speed Internet access is highly desirable."

For more visitor research information, go to

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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