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Tulsa Regional Tourism tops goal, charts map for future

Hotel stays create revenue in many ways
By Rhett Morgan Tulsa World

Tulsa Regional Tourism exceeded its fiscal year hotel room night goal by 17 percent, with its support of events, conventions and group travel contributing more than $300 million to the local economy.

Those were among the highlights of Tulsa Regional Tourism’s annual meeting last week at Southern Hills Country Club, where more than 140 community stakeholders and investors in the VisitTulsa 2.0 capital campaign gathered to celebrate a year’s worth of accomplishments.

VisitTulsa 2.0 is the second phase of a public-private regional tourism development effort spearheaded by Tulsa Regional Tourism, an umbrella organization housed at the Tulsa Regional Chamber that includes VisitTulsa, the city’s convention and visitors bureau; the Tulsa Sports Commission; and the Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts & Culture.

Investors have pledged to support VisitTulsa 2.0 in the amount of $6.4 million through 2018 in an effort to make the region a premier destination for residents and visitors.

Tulsa Regional Tourism booked a total 176,361 room nights during the 2017 fiscal year, topping its goal of 150,000, Chris Wylie, the Chamber’s director of accounts, wrote in an email.

The direct economic impact of that activity is $185.5 million, and, using a standard tourism industry formula for calculating additional visitor spending, the direct and indirect impact climbs to $324.3 million, Wylie wrote.

At the meeting at Southern Hills, a panel discussed the tourism outlook for northeast Oklahoma. Panelists were Tony Moore, executive director of A Gathering Place for Tulsa; John David, chief operating officer of USA BMX; Wendy Drummond, CEO of Drummond Communications; and Chris Fair, president of Resonance Consultancy.

Moore told the audience that A Gathering Place, the $400 million park under construction along Riverside Drive, “will change the way people view Tulsa.”

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Many changes in the city already have taken place, Drummond said.

“As a law student and clerk in downtown Tulsa many years ago, there was nowhere to go to lunch in downtown Tulsa,” she told the crowd. “Now we are a restaurant destination.

“Downtown at night is vibrant. … It’s full of people, people from all over. We have an amazing concert venue.”

Voters last year OK’d a Vision Tulsa tax package initiative. Among the regional tourism projects to be funded by Vision Tulsa include a Gilcrease Museum expansion ($65 million) and upgrades to the Cox Business Center ($55 million) and Tulsa fairgrounds ($30 million).

“Since I’ve been in Tulsa, it’s really been an amazing change,” Drummond said. “It’s gone from nearly dead to very, very alive.”

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