WALLA WALLA - Business entities from the Touchet Valley attended a presentation of a "way finding" initiative Thursday that would use road signs to brand the 30-mile travel corridor from Dayton to Milton Freewater.
Representatives from the Port of Columbia and the newly formed Touchet Valley Tourism Alliance joined others from Walla Walla-area businesses and organizations to offer feedback to the first phase of a long-term signage overhaul program for the region proposed by Tourism Walla Walla.
For a number of businesses and Touchet Valley stakeholders, it was a day dedicated to tourism. In the evening, two dozen people attended the first Meet & Greet gathering of the Touchet Valley Tourism Alliance at the Town Hall in Waitsburg.
The first of what is expected to be a series of such networking events, the Meet & Greet was an opportunity for businesses and stakeholders to get to know each other and be able to send travelers one another's way.
The new alliance also hopes to capture business information from joining members for the creation of a directory and a quick-reference guide that will help their staff members give accurate details to travelers.
The series of meet and greets is the first of several initiatives from the alliance, a group of businesses that wants to actively promote the Touchet Valley as a travel destination.
The gathering in Waitsburg was attended by Michael Davidson, head of Tourism Walla Walla, David Woolson, the new director of the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce, and John Bosio, the Pennsylvania consultant conducting the comprehensive "way finding" study who presented his initial analysis at the Walla Walla Hampton Inn & Suites earlier in the day .
Bosio pointed out that the signage overhaul can be much more than merely creating a consistent brand and putting new signs along various roads in the area.
The travel corridor's identity can be promoted even before tourists and motorists reach the area, whether they merely pass through or plan a trip here. It can start with cell applications and online maps and include airport signs, Main Street kiosks, interpretive signs (such as signs to educate travelers about the crops they see in the fields) and consistent road sign graphics.
Bosio's firm Merje conducted an inventory and analysis of the area and concluded the corridor could benefit substantially from such common branding. The overhaul can be funded over time with state, federal and private-sector grants.
In the next phase, collaborators on the project will decide on a name or theme for the regional brand, exploring ideas that tie the region and its attractions together, such as history, agriculture, recreation and so on.
The next meeting of the Touchet Valley Tourism Alliance is at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Waitsburg Business Center.