By Lori Kimbel

A maverick is someone who does things his/her own way, a little different than the norm. Some are wild and unruly as they go about their life, others are a bit more subtle. They can be dreamers, entrepreneurs, CEO’s, or just the guy down the street, but what they bring into the world  undoubtedly changes the lives of those they come into contact with. 

Such is the case for Oregon Maverick Todd Davidson, CEO of Travel Oregon. He’d never admit that he’s one, and even gives all the credit to his entire team at Travel Oregon, but the man truly is a maverick. 

“Todd is an exceptional leader because he genuinely loves Oregon, and has somehow remained humble as he has become a national leader in the industry. Humility is important in an industry where everyone feels like they should have a say in how tax dollars are spent, or how their home state and home town are marketed and developed. Todd knows how to listen,” said Jon-Paul Bowles, Owner of Destination Managment Advisors.

Davidson has been leading a group of individuals at Travel Oregon, along with hundreds of Oregonians in the travel industry for 23 years. 

The Oregon travel industry added more than 3,200 new jobs in 2018, a 2.9% increase over the prior year. Currently 115,400 people work in Oregon’s travel industry. All have been affected by the work Davidson pours his heart into each and every day. 

     “Todd has also cultivated strong leadership around him and has empowered people to be creative. You can see the evidence in Travel Oregon’s marketing, in the leaders who run global sales, and the fact that Travel Oregon is one of the few state tourism commissions that has a destination development department. Investing in destination management is one of the brightest signs of leadership - getting out in front of some of the potential negative impacts of tourism and investing in more access to outdoor recreation so that everyone can get out and enjoy Oregon’s beauty in their own way,” said Bowles. 

     Independent findings by Dean Runyan Associates indicate that travel-related spending throughout the state increased by $500 million (up 4.2%) over last year, reaching a record $12.3 billion. This marks the ninth straight year of growth.

     The new report confirms the economic significance of the travel industry in Oregon and highlights the following key findings: 

     Last year, hotel room revenue throughout the state increased by 4.4%.
     Domestic visitor air arrivals to Oregon increased by 5.1% over the previous year.

     In 2018, the travel and tourism industry generated $560 million in state and local taxes, an increase of 3.9% over the previous year.

     Secondary impacts from the re-spending of travel-generated revenues by businesses and employees were equivalent to 59,960 jobs in 2017, with earnings of $3.1 billion.

     The travle industries Gross Domestic Product was $5.5 billion in 2018. 

     The travel industry is one of the top three export-oriented industries in 31 of 36 Oregon counties.   

     “Travel Oregon’s vision is a better life for all Oregonians through strong, sustainable local economies, said Todd Davidson. “Everything we do at Travel Oregon, from product development to destination marketing to regional investments in tourism and our matching grants program, supports this vision. This report affirms that we are on the right track, so we will continue our work to enhance economic vitality and community livability in every corner of the state.”

     “Todd has been in the industry for many years and built the integrity statewide and with his peers in other states,” said Sheryll Bates, executive director of the Heppner Chamber of Commerce. “He has lots of experience and makes people feel we are part of the same team and promotes creating the best “Oregon” our tourists will see when they come to visit.”

     “What has pleased me greatly has been the understanding of busy DMO’s, and everyone in the travel industry is that we are not each other’s competition, they all walk into a tradeshow and sell Oregon first. They all have a passion for Oregon. It makes me so proud,” said Davidson. 

        “He seems to know who each of us are and greets us warmly, not as part of a group, but as an ‘individual’,” said Bates.

     Todd said his biggest influence as a youth was his dad who taught him how to fish and make sure he understood the importance of being polite and having common courtesy.

     “Family came first to my dad,” said Davidson. “He was devoted to my mom, he taught me how to fish, about his wisdom, his experiences,  and his love of life. He loved to garden and loved to be outdoors. He made sure we understood the importance of decency, civility, honesty, integrity.”

     As for the biggest positive influence in his adult life, it was obviously, hands-down, his wife, Caroline and after learning more about her she absolutely sounds like an Oregon Maverick as well. Hopefully I will get a chance to write a snippet of her life story in the near future.