Q&A: Alana Hughson, Bend, Ore., tourism chief

The sixth hole at Tetherow.

The sixth hole at Tetherow.

photo

Alana Hughson, Bend, Ore., tourism chief and president of the Central Oregon Visitors Association

At first glance, the tourism people in Central Oregon would seem to have their hands full trying to get golfers to visit them. After all, the top four courses in the state, according to the Golfweek’s Best rankings, are at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, 260 miles southwest of Bend on the Oregon coast.

But Bend and the surrounding region can tout a rich portfolio of assets. First, Tetherow, the Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn Club, and Crosswater at Sunriver Resort rank Nos. 5-7 in the state, right behind Bandon’s foursome. That doesn’t include architect John Fought’s recent remake of the Glaze Meadow Course at Black Butte Ranch.

Moreover, Bend’s temperate high-desert climate, active-outdoor lifestyle and rich cultural offerings give it broad appeal that extends far beyond the golf course. That’s reflected in the fact that, over the past decade, Bend’s population has grown almost 50 percent, to a still-quaint 80,000 or so.

During the PGA Merchandise Show, Golfweek caught up with Alana Hughson, president of the Central Oregon Visitors Association, to discuss the destination:

• • •

What are some of the recent developments in Central Oregon?

For the golf industry, we’re fortunate to have come through the recession strongly. Many of our golf partners are reinvesting in their product, so that’s always exciting for us. There’s a whole new redesign of Glaze Meadow at Black Butte Ranch.

What’s planned is new development at Pronghorn, Brasada Ranch, at Sunriver Resort, at Black Butte Ranch and at Tetherow. They’re taking the lodging product to the next level of luxury and amenity and service. . . . The newest thing at Tetherow is they will be opening their brand-new hotel in April. It’s a 50-room, luxury, boutique hotel right on property. They have not had overnight accommodations at Tetherow prior to this.

That was a real estate project.

It is a real estate project. And they have had a banner 2013. As you know, Central Oregon was hit really significantly with the drop in the real estate market. We were on pace for several years to be the fastest-growing destination in the entire nation. So when the fall came, we fell hard and fast. So it’s taken us a while to come out of that. But it’s exciting now to see all of these resort properties reinvesting in their infrastructures. We had a pretty solid 2012 and a very strong 2013.

Let’s talk about specific properties. What is Auberge du Soleil doing at Pronghorn?

They are starting, in 2014 through 2015, adding all of their hotel units. I believe it’s about 150 units they have under construction in phases. It will exponentially increase their overnight accommodations capacity.

What about Brasada Ranch?

Brasada is going to be adding ranch cabins – another 40 to their inventory. It’s very similar to what they already have – multi-unit, luxury, townhome facilities.

How about Sunriver Resort?

Sunriver won’t be adding any units, but they’ve just started a major renovation of their core lodge area. They’re going to be completely redesigning the restaurant and bar that are on site.

And there’s a new brewery that’s opened in Sunriver. It’s not part of the resort – it’s privately owned – but it’s a gorgeous brewpub facility. We’re now up to more than two dozen breweries, and little cottage breweries are popping up all over the place. We have the Bend Ale Trail, so you can come visit each of these places, and if you finish the trail, you get a badge of honor and little gift at the end of it.

Do you have to consciously differentiate Bend from Bandon Dunes?

I think it’s fortunate that they are such different destinations. That helps us differentiate the two. Bandon has been exceptional for Oregon golf. We’re delighted that the Bandon Dunes product is in Oregon, and it has certainly helped Central Oregon. Specifically, Bandon is very geared toward buddies trips, where it is all about the golf, and that is the entire focus. I think where Central Oregon has the advantage is if you want to take an amazing golf trip, the product is available in Central Oregon. But there also are great restaurants, great brewpubs, great shopping, great art, great culture. So it’s more of a complete destination package.

Has any direct air service been added recently?

We reinstated nonstop flights to and from Los Angeles in July of last year. That was important to us to reach the Southern California market and allow people to get to our destination in two hours. . . . All of Deschutes County is about 150,000 people, and we have service by United, Alaska, Delta and American (airlines). So we have pretty tremendous air service in and out of the region.

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