Good morning and thanks so much for including me in this year’s Wine Tourism Conference.
In Oregon, we’re well aware of just how important our wine industry is to our state economy. Agriculture is our second largest industry overall, and the wine-grape crop is Oregon’s leading value-added agricultural segment. Oregon is the third largest wine-producing state, and our 463 wineries and 850 vineyards contribute more than $2.7 billion annually to the state economy.
At the same time, it’s no exaggeration to say that travel and tourism are absolutely vital to Oregon’s economy. Last year, travelers spent $9.2 billion in the state, employing more than 91,000 Oregonians.
Fortunately, what we’re seeing in Oregon is the intersection of these two industries. In 2010, wine-related tourism contributed about $158 million in revenues to the Oregon economy.
In 2011, more than 28.8 million people took overnight trips in Oregon, and over 44 million took day trips. These travelers are here to experience our state’s legendary scenic beauty and world class outdoor recreation, but they’re also here to experience Oregon’s vibrant culinary scene.
We all know that great things happen when you pair good food with good wine, and in this particular case, the combination is a powerful tourist attractor. Studies show that more than half of all travelers to Oregon participate in at least one culinary-related activity during their stay.
People come to visit wineries and tasting rooms, to participate in microbrewery tours, to sample artisan food products and some of freshest seafood in the country. They shop at farm stands, dine in restaurants, take cooking classes, and do farm stays.
Not only do these travelers buy locally-made products while visiting the state, but research shows that nearly one-third of Oregon visitors report actively seeking out Oregon-made products once they returned home to share with their friends and family. Wine, beer, and food products topped the list.
These visitors are sharing their experience of Oregon, which can motivate others to visit and influence decisions to return to Oregon in the future.
These positive travel experiences can also affect future business prospects. Travelers surveyed revealed that more than 2 percent would consider opening, relocating or expanding a business in Oregon. Not an insignificant percentage considering it represents nearly 700,000 new business prospects.
As for the effect on wine-related and other businesses already in Oregon: this tourism matters. I heard an anecdote about one of Oregon’s leading wine tour companies, Grape Escape. Their business set records this past August, September and October, with 80 percent of their customers from out of state.
More broadly, wineries are a key and growing segment of Oregon’s rural economy. Wine grapes are also one of the more stable agricultural crops, and stability is essential for Oregon to move away from a boom/bust economic cycle toward a more enduring prosperity that lifts up every Oregonian.
Tourism’s role is no less critical, providing meaningful jobs, fueling small business development, and generating year-round revenue in every corner of the state. The tourism and hospitality industry has become Oregon’s largest traded sector, and it’s essential to our large employers, like Nike and Intel, that engage in international trade, helping us sustain our nonstop flights to Asia and Europe.
What I like best about the intersection of these two industries is not simply the positive impacts they have both individually and together on our state economy, but that they reflect so well on who we are as Oregonians.
Oregonians take a lot of joy in the recognition that Oregon grapes and wines receive, and a lot of pride in our agricultural heritage and rich natural landscapes. I know I’m not the only Oregonian who scans menus when traveling around the country looking for a familiar place-name from the Willamette Valley or Southern Oregon.
So when Oregon winemakers receive awards, or when the Willamette Valley is named Wine Region of the Year, as it recently was by Snooth, a leading online wine community, Oregonians take notice.
And so we are committed to cultivating wine tourism because it showcases our shared vision of what Oregon is all about: where clean water and fertile soils create a superior, critically and commercial renowned product; where we are good stewards of our land; and where we combine innovation with experience.
The spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation we see in the Oregon wine and tourism industries is encouraging, and we’ll continue doing our part to support it and share it with visitors from around the world.
From our Oregon “wine country” license plate, with proceeds designated for the Oregon Tourism Commission to promote Oregon wine and culinary tourism, to our collaboration with wine and other agricultural communities on long-term land use solutions, we’ll continue our active role in helping to promote value-added production and the unique offerings of Oregon’s wine country.
I hope you enjoy your stay in Oregon and get to know the people behind this booming industry – because they’re the final piece in what makes this work so well for our state. We’re expanding our wine tourism industry not only because of our fertile soils and incredible wines, but because we have incredible people here doing great work. Talk to them, learn from them, and above all, enjoy your conference.