Erin Borla sees good news when she looks at the transient room-tax collections for the first six months of 2013.
The executive director of the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce sees a steady and significant increase over the past three or four years - an indication that more people are coming to Sisters overall and especially in the months outside the traditionally busy months of high summer.
Transient room-taxes are a city tax collected on a per-room basis by all the lodging establishments in the city limits, including vacation rentals. The chamber receives a percentage of those taxes from the city to support tourism marketing efforts.
The city collected $42,456.74 in June 2013. That's up from $37,800.77 in June 2012 and reflects a year-by-year climb up from $31,834.45 in June 2010.
The trend is also upward for winter months January-March.
"Those are shoulder season months," Borla said.
While transient room-tax collections can be affected by rate adjustments -either increases or discount programs -Borla is confident that the increased numbers in great part reflect what the lodging/tourism industry calls "heads-in-beds."
Room tax collection is traditionally used as a barometer for the health of the tourism industry.
Once those heads are in beds, empirical data on economic impact is hard to come by. Most reporting is anecdotal. However, Borla says, it's evident that people who are staying in Sisters are also eating, shopping and buying gas here.
Additionally, there are knock-on effects when management and employees of lodging establishments are able to spend more dollars in Sisters.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the increase in room tax collections, not least a perception of an improving economy that encourages more people to travel both for business and recreation.
Borla believes that a consistent marketing message about Sisters in markets along the I-5 corridor from California to Washington is paying off.
She notes that the chamber works with lodging and recreation businesses (including partners outside the city limits like Black Butte Ranch, Aspen Lakes and properties in Camp Sherman) that throw in together on cooperative advertising to draw people to Sisters.
The message is that Sisters offers a nearby place to step away from the hectic pace of life, to experience healthful family recreation and to shop and dine in unique, owner-operated establishments that offer something different from cookie-cutter chain restaurants and big box stores that can be found
"It's a unique experience across the board," Borla says.
"Cooperative advertising offers opportunities to all businesses to help share the message of Sisters Country within a targeted demographic that is specific for their business model," she said. "We currently have a lodging/recreation cooperative, special event cooperative and a retail cooperative. We are working on building our restaurant cooperative once again this year. Each of these cooperatives are open to businesses in Sisters Country to participate - and have tailored messaging that helps target the best audience for the collective of that style of business."
Borla also credits Sisters' signature events -the Sisters Rodeo, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, the Sisters Folk Festival - not only for bringing people to Sisters but for raising the profile of the community and providing year-round programming that brings people back.
"The year-round programming that is going on with our special events is definitely helping," Borla said. "Those events are doing a fantastic job."
She also sees relatively new events such as the Sisters Stampede mountain bike race on Memorial Day weekend and the massive SALI lacrosse tournament as examples of events that are expanding the "season" in Sisters.
Sisters Park & Recreation District has boosted winter visits through a successful series of basketball tournaments.
Formal and informal cooperative efforts are, Borla believes, key to building on success.
"We're all working together," Borla said. "We're all one big team. When we all work together, we all succeed. I sound like an athletic team coach, but it's a message that needs to get out there."