PENDLETON — The Pendleton Chamber of Commerce wants more travelers to stop in town on their drive through Interstate 84, and it’s not afraid to be obvious about it.
The chamber and its tourism arm, Travel Pendleton, recently installed a billboard off I-84 in The Dalles to promote the city’s tourism.
The billboard features a photo of Anna Harris, a former Happy Canyon princess, performing at the 2018 Wildhorse Pow Wow and a 125-mile reminder of how close Pendleton is.
The billboard also quotes a 2018 Smithsonian Magazine article that names Pendleton as one of the top 20 best small towns to visit.
Kristen Dollarhide, Travel Pendleton tourism and hospitality manager, said the billboard isn’t the only way the chamber is trying to get Pendleton’s name out.
The chamber has placed lit posters at Multnomah Falls and the Boardman visitor’s center and already has a similar billboard in La Grande.
In combination with social media and other forms of traditional advertising, Dollarhide said billboards play a part in building interest in Pendleton tourism.
“Billboards are still a major player when it comes to advertising and marketing,” she said.
Rosenberg said it’s hard to measure the return on investment for a billboard, but she thinks the increase in foot traffic the chamber’s visitor center has received is evidence that it’s publicity campaign is working.
Funded by the city to run the travel center at 501 S. Main St., the chamber decided to expand the center’s hours in April.
The center is now open seven days per week, with hours running from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Rosenberg said most of the chamber’s weekday traffic comes from the business community, so a move to a schedule that kept the visitor’s center open Saturdays and Sundays made sense if they were trying to reach more tourists.
Rosenberg said the chamber was able to afford an extra day of operation and staffing by consolidating its membership and communications positions.
Another consolidation, between the chamber and the Pendleton Downtown Association, is still ongoing.
In November, both nonprofits announced that they had signed a memorandum of agreement establishing a formal alliance that included collaborating on various projects and co-locating at the visitors center.
Rosenberg said all of her staff are already working with the downtown association on various projects, but the association’s impending move is on hold while the chamber puts together a capital improvement plan.
Wesley Murack, the downtown association’s executive director, said he’s already collaborating with the chamber on grants and graphic design, and once he can move his office to the visitor center, the partnership will only get stronger.