Report: Prices and online visibility of coastal tour operators vary widely


By Rick Cooper

Man holding salmon

In Astoria, Gold Beach, and Lincoln City, more salmon charter businesses were found in 2018; however, in Brookings, Newport, and Tillamook, fewer businesses were recorded in 2018. (Photo by Susan Dimock)

The prices and online presence of companies offering guided tours on the Oregon coast vary widely, according to the author of a new report.

Miles Phillips, a coastal tourism specialist with Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon State University Extension Service, found that their online presence ranged from prominent to nonexistent.

“Many guides are not effectively marketing themselves online,” said Phillips, who hired two interns – through Oregon Sea Grant’s Summer Scholars program – to analyze prices and Google search rankings for coastal companies that offer salmon-fishing, kayaking, and whale-watching tours.

They found that prices charged for comparable services offered by different tour companies varied by as much as 400 percent.

Phillips summarized the findings in a 13-page report: 2018 Evaluation of Pricing and Online Presence of Oregon Coast Tour Operators.

The findings come from a replica­tion of a study that was first conducted in 2017. The more recent study used the same meth­odology, with some revisions to accommodate Google’s changing presentation of search results.

The 2018 study also found the following:

  • Of the 35 salmon-fishing companies that appeared in their searches, 10 neglected to include information on pricing. “If potential customers are searching online and don’t see a price, they’re not likely to call,” Phillips said.
  • A man and a woman in kayaks

    Since 2017, the number of kayak tours per city has stayed the same at three main businesses along the coast. The prices in two of the three businesses have stayed the same, with one $15 price drop in Gold Beach. (Photo by Erik Urdahl)

    In Astoria, Gold Beach, and Lincoln City, more salmon charter businesses were found in 2018; however, in Brookings, Newport, and Tillamook, fewer businesses were recorded in 2018. This fluctuation may be because businesses had recently opened/closed, or because they did not appear in the top 12 results and were therefore not recorded.

  • Overall, the price of salmon charter tours has slightly increased from 2017. There was one big price drop in Lincoln City, but, generally speaking, prices are on the rise.
  • The number of kayak tours per city has stayed the same at three main businesses along the coast. The prices in two of the three businesses have stayed the same, with one $15 price drop in Gold Beach.
  • The number of whale-watching tours offered in Depoe Bay (four) and Newport (one) has remained the same since 2017. One new whale-watching business was recorded in Tillamook in 2018. Of the 15 coastal towns sampled, only these three offer whale-watching tours.
  • In Depoe Bay and Newport, there was a $3 and $2 average price increase, respectively, in whale-watching tours.

Phillips said the design of this project allows it to be redone over the years, following the same methodology. A third round of data collection will take place this year.

The research was conducted with the support of Oregon Sea Grant, OSU Extension, Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, the Oregon Coast Visitors Association and the Oregon State Marine Board.

For information on Oregon Sea Grant’s and Extension’s Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation program, go to

Now available: New issue of Oregon Sea Grant’s newsletter

June 21, 2018

The spring/summer 2018 issue of Confluence, a newsletter about Oregon Sea Grant’s research, outreach and educational programs, is now available for download. Inside this eight-page issue, you’ll find the following stories:

Cover of the spring/summer 2018 issue of Oregon Sea Grant's newsletter, Confluence

The spring/summer 2018 issue of Oregon Sea Grant’s newsletter, Confluence, is now available for free download.

Want to receive the next issue of Confluence in your email? Click here.

New publications look at Oregon coast recreational outfitter and tour guide businesses

Two new publications from Oregon Sea Grant examine several facets of Oregon coast recreational outfitters and tour guides, including their services, pricing, and online marketing effectiveness.

Fishing guide

A fishing guide demonstrates his technique. (Photo by Erik Urdahl)

Assessment of Registered Oregon Coast Outfitters and Guides examines data related to guides registered with the Oregon State Marine Board and provides a summary of some basic information about registered guides in the state, including numbers, locations and types of services provided. A printable PDF of the eight-page publication is available for free download here.

A companion publication, Survey of Online Marketing Success and Pricing for Oregon Coast Fishing Guides and Tour Operators, presents an inventory of guided salmon fishing, whale watching and kayaking businesses. Guide and tour companies can use this study to gauge the effectiveness of their online marketing and to better understand how their services are priced in the marketplace. You can download a free, printable PDF of the 18-page publication here.


A novice kayaker gets the hang of paddling. (Photo by Erik Urdahl)

The publications represent an effort to better understand such businesses’ economic impacts, job opportunities, resource management, professional development opportunities and marketing support. Individuals and organizations that might benefit from these reports include registered Oregon guide businesses, tour operators, coastal tourism promoters, community and economic development firms, natural-resource management agencies and researchers.

The research for both publications was conducted with the support and cooperation of Oregon Sea Grant (OSG), Oregon State University Extension, Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, the Oregon Coast Visitors Association and the Oregon State Marine Board. Authors are Miles Phillips, an OSG Extension coastal tourism specialist; and Catie Michel, a 2017 OSG Summer Scholar. Phillips is also the author of the OSG publications Agritourism in Oregon’s Coastal Counties: Land Use Policy and Permitting Requirements and Transient Lodging Taxes on the Oregon Coast.


New edition of Confluence now available

The fall/winter 2016 edition of Oregon Sea Grant’s semiannual newsletter, Confluence, is now available online. Articles you’ll find in this issue:

  • Guidelines help boaters enjoy watching whales without disturbing them;
  • University of Oregon study reveals why hypoxia hasn’t affected Coos Bay;
  • Simulator helps coastal residents prepare tsunami evacuation strategy;
  • Students get their feet wet in watershed science with StreamWebs;
  • Oregon Sea Grant helps prepare coastal kids for high-tech jobs; and
  • When human health affects environmental health.

You can download a free PDF here.

Oregon Sea Grant's semiannual newsletter

Spring Break brings Whale Watch Week to Oregon coast

Gray Whale - photo courtesy of M. SpieringSpring Whale Watch Week coincides with spring break for most Oregon schools and universities, and that makes March 23-30 a great time to head for the coast and look for whales.

Hundreds of giant gray whales, including females and their new calves, travel past Oregon on their way to their spring and summer feeding grounds off Alaska. Many come fairly close to shore, and it’s not unusual to see their spouts – and sometimes the animals themselves – as they swim northward.

OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm during Whale Watch Week, with special marine mammal programs and activities.

Trained volunteers will be stationed at prime whale-watching spots in coastal parks to help visitors learn how to spot the animals, and to share what they know about their life history, biology and migratory habits. Look for the “Whale Watching Spoken Here” signs.

Learn more:

  •, the official Oregon Parks & Recreation whale-watch site, includes maps showing the best whale viewing areas along the coast.
  • Free .pdf downloads of Oregon Sea Grant’s popular Gray Whales brochure, in English and Spanish versions.
  • Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, a multidisciplinary program dedicated to the study of whales and other marine mammals.

Volunteers sought for Whale Watch Week

Gray Whale breaching (photo courtesy of NOAA)

Gray Whale breaching (photo courtesy of NOAA)

NEWPORT – If you love whales, enjoy meeting people and don’t mind spending some time outdoors on a blustery winter day, Oregon’s winter Whale Watch Week wants you.

Volunteers are being sought for training as interpreters and whale-spotting guides at state parks up and down the Oregon coast for the annual event, which takes place this year from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.

Gray whales can be seen off the Oregon coast year-round, but their numbers peak during their twice-yearly migrations between feeding grounds in Alaska’s Bering Sea and calving lagoons in Baja California. The full round trip  is more than 10,000 miles (16,000 km), the longest known migration for any mammal.

During the peak of the southward migration each winter, as many as 30 whales an hour can be seen off coastal headlands and viewing areas. Gray whales can grow to 40 feet long and 70,000 pounds, and their migrations often bring them close enough to the coast to be spotted by the naked eye, if you know what to look for.

Whale Watch Weeks, started in the late 1970s by Oregon Sea Grant educators at the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, has grown to a twice-yearly program administered by Oregon State Parks from its Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay. During the winter and spring weeks, as many as 450 trained volunteers take turns at two dozen of the most popular coastal whale-watch sites, helping visitors spot whales and teaching them about the lives and habits of these giant marine mammals.

Volunteer training for Winter Whale Watch Week will take place on Sat., Dec. 10 at the HMSC Visitor Center in Newport. Dr. Bruce Mate, OSU marine mammal specialist, will preside. Additional training sessions for Spring Whale Watch Week will take place in January and February.

Spring Break is Whale Watch Week…

Gray Whale (NOAA photo)

Gray Whale (NOAA photo)

… and a great opportunity to head for  the Oregon coast and get some expert help spotting gray whales as they migrate northward to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas off Alaska.

OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center will be open from 10 am-5 pm daily for Whale Watch Week, March 20-27, with special whale-related programming every day.

Meanwhile, the state Parks and Recreation Divisions “Whale Spoken Here” program will have trained volunteers stationed at 26 state parks and rest areas along the coast to provide information about the giant marine mammals and help visitors spot them.

Get ready for Whale Watch week and learn more  about the whale migrations by downloading the free Oregon Sea Grant brochure, “Gray Whales,” in .pdf format:

Whale Watch Week is coming up

Gray whaleVolunteers take their positions at state parks up and down the Oregon Coast next Saturday to help visitors look for migrating gray whales during the annual Winter Whale Watch Week, Dec. 26-Jan. 1.

The program, launched by Oregon Sea Grant’s Don Giles in 1978 and now coordinated by the Oregon State Parks and Recreation’s Depoe Bay Whale Center, draws thousands of winter visitors to the coast each year, armed with binoculars in hopes of spotting some of the giant marine mammals as they migrate south to their  breeding grounds off Mexico’s Baja California.

To learn more about whales and their migrations before you head to the coast, download the free Sea Grant publication, Gray Whales, from our Web site, in English and Spanish language versions, as a printable .pdf or a fast-loading text version. Also available: A Watching Whales fact sheet with tips for spotting the animals – and how to tell a whale spout from a wave –  is also available.

When you need to warm up, stop by OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center, open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every day of Whale Watch Week except Jan. 1  with special programs and activities, including a daily marine mammal program in Hennings Auditorium featuring hands-on baleen, skulls and other whale “biofacts”.  The Center is also a great place to find out where whales are being seen – they’ll be keeping a running list of reported sightings and locations.

For more information, including a list of parks where volunteers will be stationed, visit the Whale Spoken Here Web site.

Whale watching volunteers sought

Surf scoters and breeching gray whalePeople come to Oregon from all over the United States each year to learn about – and try to spot – the gray whales that migrate past our coast. Now’s your chance to join the host of volunteers who take up stations at prime whale-watching spots each winter and spring to teach people about these majestic marine mammals.

Oregon Sea Grant, the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center and Oregon State Parks and Recreation team up Nov. 17-18 to offer training for volunteers in the Winter Whale Watch Week “Whale Spoken Here” program. Dr. Bruce Mate, OSU marine mammal specialist, and John Calambokidis, research biologist and co-founder of Cascadia Research, will lead the Newport training.

Pre-registration is required; sign up through Whale Spoken Here, the Oregon State Parks & Recreation whale-watching site.

This year’s Winter Whale Watch Week is Dec. 26-Jan. 1.

(Additional training will be offered in January and February for those interested in volunteering for the Spring Whale Watch Week, March 22-29, 2008).

(photo of surf scoters and breeching gray whale courtesy of the Oregon State Parks Whale Watching Center, Depoe Bay)