Normally I send out lots of good news in a quarterly newsletter, and there are definitely good things we can tell you about, but I'll do that later in April.
We are all facing serious health risks, and I'm sure everyone is doing what they can to stay safe. Our tourism businesses are facing a triple threat - their and their employees' livelihoods, financial investments, and years of hard work. Most of our tourism businesses are family-owned, what we often call "mom and pop" businesses. And there are others that have grown from mom and pop businesses to employ dozens if not hundreds of people. And most tourism-related businesses are closed.
What keeps me up at night? Worry that many may not open again - especially if stay-at-home directives must continue for a length of time for our safety.
Tourism businesses bring vitality to our communities, certainly in the form of restaurants, retail stores, local foods, museums, attractions, campgrounds, lodging, etc. But visitor spending ($240 million a year in Tillamook County) keeps our grocery stores and gas stations open. Provides about $1 million a year toward road repair. Keeps our state parks the jewels they are. Inspires entrepreneurial efforts. Supports small farmers and fishers who sell to restaurants that feature local foods.
And provides employment for 2200 people.
A dance studio owner told me she never thought that tourism impacted her business until she realized a good portion of her students have parents that work in the industry. Tourism is intertwined in a lot of good things in this county and on the Oregon Coast.
Visit Tillamook Coast, the SBDC and EDC are all working to help our local businesses and provide updated information to the community on federal, state and regional resources.
If you are able, please support local businesses and the families of those who have been furloughed. The #tillamooktakeout campaign started by the Tillamook Chamber and Visit Tillamook Coast is one way. - it helps county-wide restaurants to continue conducting business.
Look to your local communities to see which organizations need assistance - Northwest Seniors and People with Disabilities, the food bank and CARE are just three organizations seeing increased needs. We are working on helping them as well.
Our team is working from home, doing Zoom meetings, working on a post-pandemic marketing plan, one that honors our new strategic plan of destination management and stewardship. We are also working with our North Coast Tourism Management Network (Clatsop and Tillamook county collaborative on sustainable tourism) and Travel Oregon for regional messaging and recovery methods on when it is safe to accept visitors again.
Ironically, the last week of February we held a four-day training for 12 people (myself and Julie Hurliman included) to become nationally certified interpretive guides. On the last day, we each gave a 10-minute interpretive presentation. My topic? "What if tourism suddenly went away?"
Well, little did I know that would happen so quickly. However, the talk was about economic impact and recovery. And tourism is one of the first industries, if not the first, to recover after a major event - natural, economic or both.
Most everyone we talk to in the tourism industry here is working to keep an optimistic outlook for recovery, even though there are many days when it can be hard to do so.
As Mr. Rogers said, when terrible things happen, look to the helpers.
So we will. A big thank you to our local heroes: farmers, fishers, grocery workers, gas station attendants, law enforcement, medical personnel, government staff, fire and rescue, restaurants doing takeout, delivery drivers, truck and bus drivers, postal workers, nonprofits and social services, construction workers and essential staff.
Thank you for all you do. Stay safe.
Nan Devlin is executive director of Tillamook Coast Visitors Association & North Coast Food Trail