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Proposed Elimination of Tourism Department

April 14, 2015

TO: OTIA Members
FR: Debra Bailey
Re: Proposed Elimination of Tourism Department

Attached to this email is the list of Senate and House Tourism Committee members, which we ask that you contact immediately to voice your concern regarding the following issue. After speaking with key members of the legislature, our lobbyist, Benny Vanatta, is concerned that this consolidation issue could easily be adopted if we don't act now.

We have been notified that there is a proposal to consolidate the Tourism Department with the Department of Commerce. This is not just a matter of the Tourism Department moving their offices to Commerce, but the actual elimination of the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department as a separate state agency governed by statute by a separate Tourism Commission. 

As the state's third largest industry, Tourism is vital to the state's economy and deserving of a separate state agency whose mission includes protecting the interests of the tourism industry overall. The Tourism and Recreation Department accomplishes this through marketing the state as a travel destination, as well as managing state owned parks and resorts across Oklahoma. 

The Commerce Department and the Tourism Department market to very different audiences with distinctly different messages. Combining the two agencies will only dilute the impact we can have on these two audiences and further diminish the agency's role to market the entire tourism industry, not just state owned properties.  

Rural tourism entities will feel the impact more than our larger urban markets, but both will definitely lose if Tourism becomes less of a focus in our state. The hospitality and tourism industry is a positive economic engine and needs to be supported and protected by the state.

Please reach out to your local Senator and Representative asking them NOT to support the consolidation of the Tourism Department into the Commerce Department and ask them to contact Senator Jolley to express their dislike of this idea before it's too late. We would also ask that you let Debra Bailey know what response you received from your communication with these committee members.

  • Domestic and international travelers to Oklahoma spent $7.5 billion in 2013 and generated $1.1 billion to federal, state and local governments, dollars that help fund jobs and public programs such as police, firefighters, teachers, road projects and convention centers.
  • The 79,703 jobs created by travelers to Oklahoma in 2013 represent 6.4% of the state’s total non-farm employment.
  • Without these jobs generated by domestic and international travel, Oklahoma’s 2013 unemployment rate of 5.4% would have been 9.8% of the labor force.
  • For every $1 million spent in Oklahoma by domestic and international travelers 10.6 jobs are created.

Travel and tourism is vital to Oklahoma's economy.  It is a growth industry, typically setting the curve in sales tax collections in the state.

We cannot afford for the Oklahoma Department of Tourism to be rolled into another state agency and lose the attention and momentum it deserves as the third largest industry in the state.

There is no evidence that combining the two agencies is going to bolster the effectiveness of either organization.  Their missions are different, their messages are different. Eliminating the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department, will only weaken the industry it represents.  Oklahoma cannot afford to take that gamble.
Please contact your Senator or Representative today and ask them NOT to support this consolidation.

What's Happening
Tourism professionals from across the state gathered on May 14 and 15, 2018 for the Oklahoma Conference on Tourism, an annual event that helps Oklahoma's tourism industry work together to grow our attractions and communities. Between OTIA's Annual Meeting, eleven educational sessions (presentations available for download), a trade show, networking opportunities, and the RedBud Awards gala, attendees had a great time!
The Oklahoma Travel Industry Association (OTIA) held its annual RedBud Awards gala at the Oklahoma History Center on May 15, 2018. Open to all Oklahoma tourism entities, the RedBud Awards represent the highest honor given in the Oklahoma tourism industry.
The dates and featured chefs for Odyssey de Culinaire 2018 have been set! The first dinner will be Thursday, July 12 at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in OKC, and the second dinner will be Thursday, July 19 at River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa. We hope to see you at one or both of these unique dinners benefitting the Oklahoma ProStart® program!
The ORA has launched its new Oklahoma Hospitality Buyers’ Guide - a valuable, easily accessible, year-round resource featuring updated and expanded supplier and product listings, in addition to other information relating to the hospitality industry. The Guide provides users with an efficient way to browse for goods and services and offers hospitality suppliers and companies exceptional visibility by showcasing their products and services to a targeted, industry-specific buyer group.

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