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!

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