The desire to more effectively promote tourism in Oregon resulted in the creation of the Travel Information Bureau under the State Highway Commission in 1935. The Legislative Assembly authorized the commission to compile, publish, and disseminate information including historical facts, data, and maps about parks, recreation areas, and other public places in the state (OL 1935, c.195). Policy guidance was provided to the commission by the Travel Advisory Committee. The State Highway Fund paid for the costs associated with the program.
By the 1950s the bureau was commonly known as the Travel Information Division of the State Highway Department. It carried out an aggressive advertising campaign that included newspapers, magazines, mail, travel trade shows, and scenic movies. The division also helped to develop state information centers at major points of entry to disseminate information and promote tourism. The 1969 creation of the Department of Transportation changed the Travel Information Division to a section under the Highway Division.
Goals set by the Travel Advisory Committee in the late 1960s included attracting visitors who would most likely use the state commercial facilities; encouraging visitors to stay longer; stimulating fall, winter, and spring travel; attracting visitors to Oregon's less traveled regions; and encouraging Oregonians to vacation in Oregon. Later emphasis was placed on publicizing year-round resort accommodations as well as vacation activities not directly related to scenery.
In 1983 the state's tourism promotion program was formally merged with other economic development efforts in the creation of the Tourism Division of the Oregon Economic Development Department. By then tourism was the third largest industry in the state. It drew nearly 12 million visitors and contributed $ 1.3 billion to the economy. The commission separated from the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department in 2003.
The Oregon Tourism Commission encourages economic growth through a strengthened economic impact of tourism throughout the state. Staff work closely with Oregon communities, providing expertise and assistance in the development, marketing and evaluation of tourism products and resources. Governed by nine appointed commissioners, staff work to address environmental, developmental and long-range planning issues. The commission provides statewide leadership in addressing the needs of the tourism industry and plays an "umbrella" role in marketing the state.