Travel Southern Oregon (TSO) today announced the formation of an advisory committee for the Oregon Wine Country License Plate programs. The committee will provide insight to the TSO board for the disbursement of funds -- generated by the net proceeds from the sale of these specialty plates, via a program administered by Travel Oregon -- that support tourism promotion in Southern Oregon.

The advisory committee is comprised of representatives from the region’s wine, culinary and other tourism industries. They include Nora Lancaster, marketing director at Kriselle Cellars in White City; Fred Wickman, owner of Prospect Historic Hotel and Dinner House; Bob Hackett, marketing manager at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Kerrie Walters, manager of the Southern Oregon Winery Association; and Carolyn S. Hill, CEO of Travel Southern Oregon.

"These are exciting times in Oregon for the wine and culinary industries,” said Lancaster.  “We are committed to utilizing the available funds from the Wine Country license plates with utmost care to assist in promoting the world class offerings our area grows and creates."

“The Wine Country license plate resource is a tremendous opportunity to enhance the recognition of the wonderful bounty we have in the Southern Oregon region,” said Wickman. “I am excited to help with the committee and put this to work for the culinary and wine industries.”

The funding is made possible by a law passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2011 that created the Oregon Wine Country license plates. With this law, the legislature initiated two programs for the state tourism office, Travel Oregon, to bring to the tourism industry: a matching grant program and a regional tourism promotion program.

For the regional tourism promotion program, Travel Southern Oregon is one of three regional agencies designated to receive the Wine Country license plate fund disbursements. The Eastern Oregon Visitors Association and the Willamette Valley Visitors Association were also selected as regional tourism promotion designees in their respective areas of Oregon.

Travel Southern Oregon receives disbursements (on a pro-rata share, based on vineyard acreage) from the sale of the plates.  Total disbursements to all wine regions in the 2015/2016 biennium equal $239,838. Travel Southern Oregon, as the regional designee for Region 3 (Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Curry, Coos, Klamath and Lake Counties), will receive $37,578 in the initial disbursement.

Travel Oregon is also investing in a Wine Country license plate matching grants program, which will enable more than $230,000 in matching grants to be available statewide in the 2015/2016 grant awards cycle.

“As the recipient of the Wine Country License Plate disbursement, Travel Southern Oregon is committed to advancing wine and culinary tourism throughout its seven-county marketing region,” said Carolyn S. Hill.  “Under the direction of the TSO board and with insight from the Wine Country License Plate committee, TSO looks forward to immediately initiating programs and investing in consumer marketing, research, and outreach.”

“Travel Southern Oregon is honored to be the organization entrusted with the license plate resource,” Hill said.  “The opportunity to invest a new funding source is tremendously exciting, and we are eager to put the resource to use on behalf of the wine and culinary industries in Southern Oregon.”