In recognition of the natural resources that attract visitors to Bend, the group charged with luring visitors here wants to use a portion of the room tax it receives to fund shovel-ready projects.
By this fall, an advisory group will choose projects that support tourism and spend up to $500,000 of transient room taxes to support the natural resources, trailheads and other reasons that are the primary drivers of why people come here. Next year the Sustainability Fund, as it’s been called, could set aside up to $750,000, said Kevney Dugan, Visit Bend CEO.
Visit Bend already has a grant program for marketing cultural events like BendFilm and Oregon WinterFest, which bring people to Bend. The new fund would enable the marketing group to expand its support to so-called tourism-related facilities like trailheads, bike paths and river-launch areas for adaptive sports.
“We as an industry have put more people out there in the natural landscape than a land manager assumed would be there,” Dugan said. “We feel the responsibility. We looked at what does it take to be responsible.
“We are taking what is happening out there seriously and doing what we can to protect and enhance these areas so the next generation will have the same opportunity to recreate here that we had.”
To do that, the group will need Bend City Council approval. The council was considering the issue at Wednesday night’s meeting. The funds could be used to maintain trails, expand nordic skiing, build an adaptive sports launch area at the river or build a parking lot. It’s a concept embraced by other communities.
Tillamook County will redevelop the parking lot in Pacific City and a mountain bike trail in Coos Bay will be developed, Dugan said.
“We wanted to fund enough meaningful projects and enough projects to have meaning,” Dugan said. “There will be flexibility. We wanted to start with a meaningful dollar amount and grow it as we go.”
Over the years the marketing nonprofit has attempted to address the impact of tourism on recreational areas. It launched a Visit Like a Local initiative and Pledge for the Wild, which took donations from visitors who wanted to support recreational areas.
For years Visit Bend has funded the marketing of cultural tourism with 7.5% of its annual budget. This year that’s $340,000.
The transient room tax funds Visit Bend’s marketing effort to promote tourism in Bend. Since the start of the pandemic, the group has not marketed the region. From July through March the city of Bend collected $7.5 million in transient room tax, which is 0.6% less than the same time the year before.
According to state law, 70% of the transient room tax goes to the city’s general fund to pay for things like police or firefighters.
Bend city Councilor Anthony Broadman said amending the law to allow for funding of tourism-related facilities has been a focus of his because the community will benefit as well.
“This allows us as a community who live here to benefit more from the taxes the city collects from tourists,” Broadman said. “By the virtue of the travel industry and Visit Bend and the city all working together right out the gate, we’ve achieved something so important.
“The people of Bend will benefit from tourism-related facilities more than they ever would benefit from the transient room tax as a promotional tool.”