Several sustainable tourism developments now taking place in the Columbia River Gorge are evolving from the Gorge Tourism Studio (GTS), a training program presented by Travel Oregon, that began in January 2016. These developments include:
- formation of the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance,
- creation of five action teams focusing on:
- cultural heritage,
- outdoor recreation,
- regional marketing and tourism education,
- car-free transportation options
- resources for new staff from the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) AmeriCorps Volunteers.
The Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance has now been awarded its first $20,000 Travel Oregon Rural Tourism Studio Matching Grant, which helps support three short-term projects including:
- Development of a podcast series sharing the rich cultural heritage stories and history of the Gorge
- Completion of a Columbia River Gorge “Towns to Trails” visual communication project to illustrate the region’s towns to trails experiences
- Establishment of a front-line hospitality training program designed to elevate the level of customer service throughout the region
The purpose of the Gorge Tourism Studio program was to present a series of tourism development workshops designed to assist communities interested in stimulating their local economies through sustainable tourism development, while protecting and enhancing local resources. The community’s vision for the studio was to see an increase in bi-state collaboration (between Oregon and Washington) to shape the future of a growing tourism economy in the Columbia River Gorge and to strengthen the region’s position as a premier tourism destination by enhancing community livability and healthy, local environments.
“Travel Oregon’s Gorge Tourism Studio brought together more than 200 folks from communities all around the Columbia River Gorge – both Oregon and Washington – to discuss opportunities and challenges within the regional tourism economy,” said Casey Roeder, President of the Columbia River Gorge Visitors Association, the convening organization of the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance. “A diverse group of stakeholders continue to meet and work on issues identified through the GTS process.”