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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.

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