U.S. Cellular Community Park is a focus for local tourism officials as they aim for a bigger slice of the $15 billion youth sports market. [Mail Tribune / file photo]

Medford tourism officials look to the future

It may sound like a long way off, but 2020 is right around the corner for Travel Medford.

The tourism promotion agency — which contracts with the city of Medford and is housed at The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County — is looking at its three-year strategic plan, taking it into 2020.

"Where do we want to spend our energy and focus?" Executive Vice President Eli Matthews asked. "We can do anything, but we can't do everything. We get bombarded by opportunities daily. In the end, we want to be narrowly focused."

Matthews, however, said he isn't quite ready to spell out specifics.

When it comes to preparing future initiatives, Travel Medford has enlisted the help of a community board, led by Dwight Laughlin of Towne Place Suites.

During fiscal 2016-17, tourism-related spending reached nearly $548 million locally, up 3.8 percent from the previous year. During 2016, Oregon saw a record of $11.3 billion in travel spending.

“These expenditures significantly affect our economy and supported more than 5,440 jobs,” said Matthews.

Medford’s transient lodging tax revenue was nearly $1 million in fiscal 2016-17, and present collection from overnight stays is 15 percent ahead of the previous year.

Sports spending from more than 11,000 visitors during 2016-17 was more than $7 million.

Tourism officials are already making plans to lure more sports events to U.S. Cellular Community Park. Youth sports is a $15 billion enterprise, and Travel Medford hopes to capture a little more of the market. The agency received a $5,000 matching grant for a familiarization trip for sports event organizers next fall. 

Travel Medford's staff has added a half-time position to go with four full-time employees. But the real boost in promoting the city, Matthews said, are the 50 volunteers who logged 5,500 hours in visitor centers at the Medford airport, downtown and adjacent to Harry & David's Country Village.

"That's like having 2.7 more people on our staff," Matthews said.

The bulk of the agency's marketing budget is spent on campaigns in Portland and the Bay Area.

"We know we're in this spot with continual increases in visitors," Matthews said. "We have 200 days of sunshine, and we know what we're good at. But with the continual increase, it's good to get direction and guidance as we're creating a strategic plan."

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter at or

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