Jamie McKinney wants visitors to experience Portland at its quirkiest.

When the Hyatt Regency Portland at Oregon Convention Center wanted to curate a collection of unique tours that would allow conference-goers to experience the city like a local well-versed in its oddities, they turned to Jamie McKinney. The director of global sales and marketing for Oregon-based America’s Hub World Tours, McKinney says, “I have wanderlust built into me. I love exploring new places, and I love going off the beaten path.” 

Take a visit she made to India a few years ago when she was “gobsmacked,” she says, by the beauty of the Taj Mahal. The exquisite marble monument is a must-see for every tourist, but McKinney sought out a unique perspective. “I was doing a homestay nearby,” she says, “and each night at about 6:00, I’d go up to the home’s roof and watch the sun set behind the Taj while the calls to prayer from every mosque would start wafting through the air. It made the hair on my arms stand up. Growing up in central Oregon, I never imagined that I could have an experience like that.”

When McKinney designed the “weird” tours that are exclusive to Hyatt Regency Portland, her goal was to create memories that were unforgettable in their own way. The eclectic Portland shopping experience starts at Hippo Hardware, a salvage store that specializes in hardware, lighting and plumbing from 1860-1960 and then moves on to Paxton Gate, which is filled with curiosities inspired by the natural world, including mounted insects and taxidermy eyes. Jerry Seinfeld and Fred Armisen of “Portlandia” fame dropped into Paxton Gate during an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

There’s also a tour to North American Bigfoot Center and the Weird Museums of Portland tour. The first stop is Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum, where visitors can travel inside a zombie’s brain and view a life-size recreation of an alien autopsy.

Weird might be just the right vibe for our reentry into group gatherings, McKinney suggests. “I had my first group meeting in person a couple of months ago,” she says, “and I was like, I need to remember how to talk to strangers, because I’ve been talking only to my husband and my dogs for nearly two years. These tours are great conversation starters. Taking photos of each other in front of a giant Sasquatch replica nicknamed Murphy is an icebreaker that cuts through any awkwardness.”

Blame it on the eight seasons of “Portlandia” or simply on the way people rave about the city when they return from visiting. Portland is experiencing a hotel boom. Collectively, the recent wave in hotel development has resulted in an increase in room inventory of nearly 50 percent since 2016.

 

League City CVB manager Stephanie Polk shares her career journey.

Originally from Kentwood, Louisiana, Stephanie Polk, TDM, CTE, first made her mark on the travel and tourism industry as director of marketing for the Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau. There, she helped to elevate the city as a destination for recreation travelers and business groups. Wowed by her accomplishments, in 2020, League City brought her on board to lead its marketing efforts. She shares with us highlights and advice from her experience in the industry. 

 

Originally from Ontario, Heather Odendaal got her start in event planning early, serving as her high school’s head of social events. She ended up on the West Coast, courtesy of her studies at the University of British Columbia, and launched her career in Whistler, working for the resort in marketing and events. Today, she’s CEO of Bluebird Strategy, a boutique event planning firm, and CEO and founder of WNORTH, a global community of women who have their sights set on the C-suite.