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Oregon State University researchers are attempting to gauge how residents feel about the tourism industry through an online survey. Seaside is one of over 40 cities worldwide — and one of nine in Oregon — participating in the project. Joshua Heineman, the city’s director of tourism marketing, said the survey is the first of its kind. “I’m sure that there are local efforts where people have kind of tried to get a sense of what people are thinking, but I don’t know that it’s ever been so rigorous and so standardized,” he said.
Todd Montgomery, the director of the lab conducting the survey, said the team wants to find a baseline of how different communities feel about tourism over the next five years. The survey includes questions about traffic, vacation rentals, environmental impact and more.
Each year, Seaside officials and residents will see the results and could use them to promote the positive aspects of tourism and address the negatives. “You can’t measure and improve what you don’t know,” Heineman said. Montgomery spent years looking for sites to build hotels and resorts in the Asia-Pacific region, but after a while, he worried about the impact.
“The local community initially got jobs, but the cost or the impact on their community, their culture, their language, their land, their natural resources were always much more severe than what was initially promised,” he said.
He and his wife, who is a Pacific Islander, resolved to better understand the effects of tourism, and they started with a survey in the Mariana Islands. Word spread to Oregon State, which helped Montgomery secure funding to continue the research. Montgomery is committed to getting representative data. At the end of the summer, the team will begin to analyze the survey responses. If the responders’ demographic information doesn’t match census data for the region, they’ll start targeted outreach to underrepresented groups. Once they’ve gathered representative data, the team will provide statewide and local analysis.
“From a financial perspective, from an environmental perspective, from a community perspective, the only way these destinations will thrive long term is if they are in balance, and that balance is going to be different for every destination,” Montgomery said.