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2 RV Rallies Boost Redmond, Ore., Economy

July 5, 2007 by   - () Leave a Comment

Tourism-related businesses are anticipating a big shot of business later this month and in August when hordes of recreational vehicle enthusiasts, vendors and fairgoers descend upon the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center in Redmond, Ore.
The Bulletin of Bend, Ore., reported that each of two national RV events — The Rally, scheduled July 19-22, and the Family Motor Coach Association’s 78th Annual Convention, scheduled Aug. 13-16 — is expected to attract about 10,000 visitors from across the nation and generate between $7 million and $9 million apiece for the local economy, according to event organizers.
The RVers are expected to flood the area’s grocery stores, restaurants, recreation venues and hotels — contributing to a central Oregon tourism industry with an estimated $498 million-a-year impact on the economy.
Both events have occurred at the fairgrounds before, but never in the same summer, said Roxia Thornton Todoroff, director of sales at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center.
Sandwiched in between the two events, the Deschutes County Fair will attract more than 235,000 visitors, making it the largest event of the year, she said.
“It will be huge for us,” she said. “The years that we host RV rallies really add to our bottom line. Each event is comparable to having a fair. Outside of fair week, they are the single largest events of the year.”
Local RV merchants are gearing up for both RV rallies, said Rick Breeden, general manager of Big Country RV in Bend and Redmond. He expects his company’s 18 salespeople will sell roughly $7 million worth of merchandise during the events.
Following a sale, new RV owners require a pre-delivery inspection, which takes a full day, he said.
“Everybody wants to park on the lot,” he said. “It will be just a zoo.”
Counting RV sales, The Rally generated $30 million in July 2005 when it was known as the Great North American RV Rally, according to Sue Bray, vice president at the Ventura, Calif.-based Affinity Group, which owns and holds the event.
About 3,800 separate RVs already have signed up for The Rally, which is expected to draw close to 9,000 people, she said. Additionally, roughly 1,000 people will staff the 480 booths featuring RV dealers, accessories and promotions of the RV lifestyle, she said.
“What people have to recognize is that these people are driving to Redmond and spending time in Oregon,” Bray said. “The Rally is just part of it. They are spending money along the way.”
Not counting RV sales, the impact on the local economy for each event is roughly $9 million, said Eric Sande, executive director of the Redmond Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitor Bureau.
“There’s definitely an impact that reaches into all sectors, even home sales,” Sande said. “Attendees buy RVs, gifts and clothing.
Vendors rent cars and stay in hotels. The events are a boom for all different attractions in central Oregon.”
Chamber staff called most hotels in the city looking for room availability and most checked in full throughout the week for both events, Sande said.
Both the Comfort Suites and Best Western Rama Inn in Redmond were booked more than a year in advance, their sales staff said.
Teresa Fehrenbacher, president of Bend-based Specialized Meetings & Events Inc., also has been planning for almost a year for The Rally.
She arranged buses from Portland and Bend to give visitors multiple tours, including a trip to The Shops at The Old Mill District and lunch at Deschutes Brewery Pub, an afternoon lunch at Mt. Bachelor ski area, and shuttle buses to Sisters and the High Desert Museum.
“It’s a cross section of all that central Oregon has to offer in a short amount of time,” Fehrenbacher said.
She expects hundreds of people to sign up for the tours, which will produce roughly 15 percent to 20 percent of her company’s revenue for the year.
Most visitors will go sightseeing before or after the convention, said Jerry Yeatts, director of convention services for the Cincinnati-based Family Motor Coach Association.
The August event also will draw roughly 10,000 people, including families and exhibitors, Yeatts said.
“There are so many events and activities in the central Oregon area and it’s a launching pad for other travel around the Pacific Northwest,” he said. “Most of them want to see the Oregon Coast or wineries in the Willamette Valley or Northern California.”
The Rally is an annual event sponsored by the Good Sam Club, Camping World President’s Club, Camp Club USA, Coast to Coast Resorts, Woodall’s, and Trailer Life and MotorHome magazines. All the organizations are either owned by or affiliated with AGI, headquartered in Ventura, Calif.

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