- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2015

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) - Brad Niva thought buying a raft company in Southern Oregon would give him a chance to float the Rogue whenever he felt like it.

It hasn’t quite turned out that way. Instead he’s kept pretty busy, building three companies all based on tourism.

Niva was among the speakers touting tourism during a Chamber of Medford/Jackson County forum recently at the Rogue Valley Country Club.

“Think about everything we have to offer a tourist,” Niva said. “Say your in-laws are coming for four days, and you’re thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’ Shakespeare, Harry & David Country Store, Crater Lake National Park, the Redwoods, Oregon Caves National Monument, Rogue River, wine, food, you just start rattling down the list. … We’re so lucky with the diversity of products we have here.”

Niva said Oregon’s growing popularity has meant travelers who once flew into Seattle and out of San Francisco - passing quickly through our region - now spend a week in Southern Oregon.

“One of the tours we’ve just started is called ‘Around the Rogue in Eight Days,’ ” Niva said. “It features flying into Medford, doing Crater Lake, coming to the Rogue River, up the coast, up Highway 199, into the wine industry, into Jacksonville, and that’s an eight-day tour. We just pitched that to an international tour company last Friday and they said, ‘That’s exactly what we’re looking for.’ “

Leaving behind a ritzy Orange County hospitality career got a lot easier for Liz Wan, now the assistant winemaker at Serra Vineyards, after she took the backroads home from work in Medford to Grants Pass shortly after moving here.

“Lo and behold, there were hundreds of acres of amazing vines, and these little tasting rooms that were rustic and shabby chic, just all about hospitality and amazing wines and none of the bells and whistles and fancy stuff,” she said. “And I fell in love.”

Jeff Kline, Travel Medford’s branding and marketing director, said the average number of overnight stays in Southern Oregon has grown 3.3 percent per year since 2010, 3.4 percent in Jackson County and 5.6 percent in Medford. Since March 2012, Medford’s growth has been more than 12.5 percent.

“These past three years since the rebrand have been the most prosperous as far as tourism growth in the history of Medford,” Kline said.

Web traffic on the agency’s website has more than doubled in the past three years as well, propelled in part by a three-times-a-month “Uniquely Rogue” series.

Transient lodging taxes grew from $2.4 million in fiscal 2011-12 to $2.9 million in 2013-14, with the receipts on pace for $3.4 million by June 30 when fiscal year 2014-15 ends. Kline said the average room rates in Medford have climbed from $71.36 in 2011-12 to $77.32 last year. Occupancy growth has paralleled the other trends, going from 55 percent in 2011-12 to nearly 61 percent in 2013-14.

“What Medford and the Rogue Valley have to offer are our wines, arts and culture, our artisan foods and outdoor recreation,” said Annie Jenkins, Travel Medford’s executive director. “It is more than things you can do just on vacation. Tourism is more than heads in beds and economic impact, it is the power to transform communities.”

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The original story can be found on the Mail Tribune’s website: https://bit.ly/1ICCIbu

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Information from: Mail Tribune, https://www.mailtribune.com/


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