Strategy: Preparing for an Event When You Have No Control


TL;DR: All eyes are on Oregon as the first state to experience the 2017 solar eclipse that will pass over the U.S. on Aug. 21. The influx of people might have had some DMOs scrambling, however Travel Oregon has prepared itself as the ultimate expert to turn to as thousands of people arrive for the natural phenomenon.

The moment we’ve all been waiting for over the last five years: The Total Solar Eclipse will finally touch down on Oregon before bringing its shadow to 13 other states. It’s an exciting, unique phenomenon that Travel Oregon had nothing to do with, and yet, the agency has found itself at the middle of the solar eclipse mayhem.

Travel Oregon’s No. 1 priority is always to  deliver unequaled tourism expertise to the entire state and tell Oregon’s story to the world. The eclipse brings the opportunity to share even more information that isn’t typically necessary to share with short-term visitors.

The population of Oregon is expected to increase by 25 percent and there are already signs of the influx with traffic headed to Central Oregon backing up some 30 miles. The state has also cited concerns around wildfire risk as people idle on the side of the road, a shortage of public toilets, limited access to emergency services and the impact on electricity and cell phone service. And on top of that, some visitors might not even be able to view the eclipse since wildfire season is in full swing in the West.

Most times, marketing for an event includes finding new audiences to share the experience, but Travel Oregon saw vacancies fill up throughout the state and made the choice instead of continuing to invite people to turn their efforts toward those already planning to visit. A steady stream of information has been distributed about the eclipse for the last year around what you need to know before you leave home, what to bring and how to watch the eclipse safely. The Travel Oregon team even traded out a normal Oregon Zen moment Facebook Live-stream to open the comments to more questions from eclipse observers. The questions were shared via an outdoor panel with experts from Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Oregon State Parks, Department of Emergency Management and Department of Forestry all from the serene surroundings of a winery in Oregon Wine Country.

Though the eclipse has presented all the ingredients for disaster, Travel Oregon has been able to steer people toward everything they need for a positive experience. Though the actual moment of totality will only last less than three minutes, the event is part of larger trips for most out of state and international visitors. After all, though Travel Oregon’s priority is to be poised as the expert, a second and equally as important priority is to be sure that everyone enjoys what Oregon has to offer and leaves the state in the same way they left it.

The delicate balance of promoting a destination and at the same time keeping it authentic for locals and future travelers isn't a new concept, but there still aren't a lot of answers. Check out our blog post on how destinations are failing residents and some that are doing it right.