Hatfield Marine Science Center. Image Source.

Newport is one of the seven major cities located on Oregon’s Central Coast. With a population of about 10,400, Newport is the largest of the seven. Newport can be found between the Pacific Ocean, the Coast Mountains, and Yaquina Bay. This unique location not only provides a ton of natural beauty but also allows for plenty of outdoor recreation activities, like fishing and kayaking.

In the past, Newport’s economy was built on the Bayfront, a port that housed the commercial fishing and timber industries. Even today, Bayfront still holds one of the largest commercial fishing fleets in Oregon. As time has progressed, tourism has begun to play a more significant role in Newport’s economy. The Bayfront is now a working waterfront with a variety of attractive shops and businesses littered along the street. Visitors can enjoy cozy cafes, eye-catching art galleries, and still-running fish processing plants. Among these numerous shops and restaurants is Local Ocean, a restaurant that focuses on locally, fresh-caught seafood. It even has a seafood market component in case you plan on cooking during your stay. Newport is also home to the famous Rogue Brewery, a massive pub located just underneath the south side of the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

Lighthouse at Yaquina Head. Image Source.

Lighthouses occur all along Oregon’s coast but Newport is home to the state’s tallest and second oldest active lighthouse. Built in 1872, the 93 foot tall structure can be found at Yaquina Head, a natural area that was formed by lava flow more than 14 million years ago. Other must see attractions in Newport would be the Oregon Coast Aquarium which has some of the animals that make Oregon’s coast so special. One could even pay a visit to OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center to get a taste on how scientific research plays into our understanding of these creatures.

This week brings the end of my internship with Oregon Sea Grant and OSU Extension, and with that I’d like to summarize the work I’ve done here.

My main project this summer was researching the market prices of guided outdoor experiences along the coast of Oregon, particularly along the southern coast region of Oregon (though we analyzed the entire coast for the purposes of comparison). The three guided outdoor experiences that we focused on were guided salmon fishing charters, guided whale watching tours, and guided kayaking tours. We searched for these three products online in 15 major coastal towns, recorded the relevant business results for these searches, and analyzed the data about those businesses and available products.

What began as a project observing just market prices turned into a much more dynamic, multifaceted assessment of these businesses, their online marketing effectiveness, whether they appeared to be registered with the Oregon State Marine Board or not, how they compared with other businesses in different towns offering the same products, and the likelihood of customers finding these businesses online when searching for products that they offer. The graph to the left is showing that a smaller number of businesses were found when researching businesses within specific research parameters that emulated potential customer searching behaviors. A larger number of businesses were found when no specific research parameters were applied, indicating that some businesses are not marketing themselves effectively online since they would show up on the 4th or 5th page of results. Customers are unlikely to look that far when searching for a specific product.

Other data visualization expressed marketing ineffectiveness, as some businesses would not show up as a result when a product they offered was searched for within the town out of which that business is based – sometimes after which that business is actually named. This research indicates a potential need for marketing strategy training.

After this data was evaluated, I interviewed some fishing charter guides to ask about their operation, the services they provide, their customer demographics, employee information, and training needs. Because we were focusing on guided salmon fishing charters, I spent quite a bit of time asking the guides about the decline in salmon populations across Oregon in recent years, and was able to obtain interesting insights into these guides’ perspectives on ODFW regulations and the ecosystems on which the salmon depend, for example. Overall, the decline has been both a personal and an economic loss for these guides.

All of this information is the foundation upon which a Guide Training Program is now in its early stages of development. This program will provide resources for guides to learn about wildlife identification, customer service techniques, Oregon history/culture, and much more, to provide a more interpretive experience that prioritizes communicating the values of Oregon such as the importance of salmon and strong ecosystems. The market price research had to to be conducted and written in such a way that could be replicated again to observe year by year trends and the envisioned tourism growth as a result of this program.

The research, development, and implementation of this project and guide training development will serve as a pilot study that can ultimately be used by other Oregon communities, other states, and potentially other countries, in order to assess the current climate of their coastal communities’ tourism industry and if need be respond with a similar program that would encourage more sustainable tourism, strengthen their economy, and enhance their natural resource based industries.

Check out my other  blog in which I go into more detail about non-work related adventures! Thank you to everyone who made this internship a fantastic experience. Until next time, Oregon!

By Sea Grant Interns Dustin James and Catie Michell

On July 14-16, Catie and I had the fortune of working alongside Justin Meyers of Myers Imaging Company and Erik Urdahl of Urdahl Photo as they completed their shoot of the South Coast for our Wild Rivers Photo Project. The Wild Rivers Coast Photo Project is a Travel Oregon funded project to get professional images of Oregon’s South Coast. These images will be used for tourism marketing purposes and will focus on outdoor recreation, natural scenery, in-town hotspots, and local wildlife. Justin and Erik had come down mid-June to shoot the areas of Bandon and Port Orford and on this particular weekend they were focusing their shoot on Gold Beach and Brookings. In total they will be shooting approximately 200 photos for this project.

Morning paddle-boarding at Sunset Beach

We met up with Justin, Erik, and Dave Lacey of South Coast Tours LLC at 6:45am on Friday. They started their shoot doing an early morning paddle-boarding session at Secret Beach, and the day just took off from there. Throughout the day, we visited spots like the Chetco River’s Elephant Rock, the Brookings port, and various restaurants. We concluded the day with photographs of sunset at Samuel Boardman State Park. On Saturday, Justin and Erik took photos of Catie and I paddleboarding on Hunter Creek near Gold Beach. We then went tidepooling at Harris Beach State Park, followed by some ocean fishing and eventually a few visits to breweries and other businesses. The eventful day was concluded with late afternoon paddle-boarding at Secret Beach once again. On Sunday, I joined Justin up in Port Orford as he took a few street biking photos along the Elk River.

Cliff jumping at Elephant Rock on the Chetco River

The photos will be used for free by communities along the Wild Rivers Coast to help market to visitors. The community official destination management organization (DMO) will be able to access images through a service provided by the Oregon Coast Visitor Association (OCVA) who will manage the images.

(Right to left) Justin Meyers, Erik Urdahl, and myself

To see more of Justin’s and Erik’s work, check out their websites at http://www.myersic.com/ and http://urdahlphoto.com/.