Reflections from July’s Forum: It’s Branding Time in Bend

This month’s forum complemented City Club’s forum in August 2016, which featured Visit Bend’s president, the City’s economic development director, and the state’s regional economist.  A link to that program is here: Our July forum attempted to address how Bend might choose to brand itself to the outside world.  Traditionally, cities promote tourism with the notion that more is better.  Tourism has served Bend well in transitioning from a wood products town into a tourist town.

But in recent years, cities have become more sophisticated in promoting themselves to the “right kind” of visitor.  Of course, we all have different views on what constitutes the “right kind” of visitor from an economic, demographic, cultural, and intellectual standpoint.  Should Bend be more deliberate in who it invites to visit, when it invites them, and whether it invites them to move here permanently?  Should Bend consider tourism promotion to be a tool to expand its arts and entertainment scene, to diversify its population, or to attract a “greener” tourist that respects our local resources?  Should Bend re-direct tourism promotion dollars toward tourist facilities, as allowed by state law?

Perhaps most importantly, before we answer these questions we first need to reach a consensus as to who will be making these decisions.  Who should have the final say in how Bend’s tourism budget is allocated?  Will such decisions be made by the tourism industry, the tourists, or the citizens of Bend?

Based on live polling data collected throughout the forum, City Club’s audience had strong opinions about several subjects.  For example, the audience voted overwhelmingly that the citizens of Bend—not the tourism industry—should have the final say in how the City’s $3 million tourism promotion budget is spent.

City Club thanks panelists Katy Bryce, Carolyn Eagan, Nathan Hovekamp, John Hummel and Tim Neville; moderator Bill Buchanan; forum sponsors Liisa Sjoblom and St. Charles Health System.  The forum team included Bill Buchanan, Scott Aycock, Moey Newbold, and Ariana Powell.


City Club of Central Oregon

See more pictures from the forum on our Facebook page!