“If you come to Portland and don’t rub shoulders with a local then something is definitely off-kilter,” says Billie Moser, vice-president of international tourism for Travel Portland. And Moser knows what an authentic welcome feels like; she’s a transplant from various U.S. cities and before that from Austria. “It’s the friendliness of Portland that impressed me from my first visit – that and this loveable mix of culture and the outdoors. Where else can you get incredible skiing plus one of the biggest Shakespeare Festivals in the country.”
Mixing with locals happens naturally, Moser says, because of a very simple fact: there’s no one identifiable tourist hub in Portland: “We don’t have iconic tourist areas. There’s no Golden Gate Bridge or Eiffel Tower. What we have are real neighbourhoods, with real people, with real authentic experiences.”
That, in her view, is one of the reasons Canadian are flocking to Portland, whether it’s to visit the state’s largest city itself (about 60 per cent of Oregon’s 3.8 million people live in the Greater Portland area) or to use Portland as a base to experience the outdoor adventure that’s surprisingly accessible to a city this size.
The Portland team recently hosted media, travel agents, tour organizers and partners at a May event in the kitchen of Toronto’s culinary hot spot, Nella Cucina.
So, why should you be selling Portland – and why now?
“Whoever came up with the 7 Wonders of the World and didn’t include Oregon has never set foot in our state,” said Thomas Mooney, a Portland booster who’s also co-owner of the House Spirits Distillery, famous for its Aviation American Gin. “How could someone not be overwhelmed by Mt. Hood or the Columbia River Gorge, not to mention the Oregon Coast, or Crater Lake?” In short: there are awesome, natural wonders relatively close to the city of Portland.
If you can’t beam me up to Portland – put me on Air Canada.
With an increasing Canadian demand (across all age categories), Air Canada is expanding its network of flights. As Air Canada’s Chantal Podgorski told CT, as of this month (May), Air Canada will offer seven daily flights from Canada: four daily flights year-round from Vancouver, two from Calgary and one seasonal flight from Toronto. A selling tip for travel agents: Air Canada offers complimentary access to Air Canada Maple Leaf lounges for eligible customers in all three Canadian gateways. (Plus, Portland-area hoteliers are in the process of adding 3,000 additional rooms.)
Mt. Hood, famous for the iconic Timberline Lodge, has the longest ski season in the United States – which appeals to long weekend skiers in the winter. The 1,100 centimetres of snow appeals to the outdoor sports demographic.
Eat in the street!
Portland is a ‘maker’s haven,’ says Travel Portland’s Megan Conway. “We’re a city where people make stuff: donuts, coffee, lightbulbs.” That explains the 500 food carts offering everything from Portugese churrasco to Asian porridge called jook.
Visitors to Portland can easily access the Columbia River Gorge, Pacific Northwest mountains (remember the movie “Wild”), waterfalls, rustic Washington County – or go crabbing and whale watching along the coast. Says Moser, “We feel that a one-week visit will allow for a few days in Portland, then the balance doing day-trips to the countryside for soft adventure.”
Something for everyone:
Says Billie Moser, “We target every demographic and style of traveller. If high-brow culture or high-altitude skiing aren’t your thing, you can shear your own llama, pick your own berries or pour your own beer – and there’s always tax-free shopping.”