An Unexpected Industry
ENID — Tourism is the third-largest industry in Oklahoma, bringing in $6.2 billion in 2010.
Sandy Pantlik, director of the travel promotion division of Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, told members of Enid Rotary Club on Monday that amount was a 7.2 percent increase over 2009.
Pantlik said tourism produced $349 million in tax revenue and generated about $1 billion for local communities. However, tourism as an industry is not well known in the state.
“There are 75,000 tourism jobs in the state, but they are spread out among small industries in the state,” she said. “If we announced a new industry that employed 75,000 people, it would be big news, but these are spread out among lots of small communities.”
Oklahoma leads all surrounding states in tourism, except Texas. Oklahoma’s 35 state parks are operated by Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, which has a $70.44 million budget. The department raises about 44 percent of its own money, Pantlik said.
During 2010, the latest figures available, more than 1.3 million people visited state parks in northwest Oklahoma, including Roman Nose near Watonga, Little Sahara near Waynoka, Great Salt Plains near Cherokee and Boiling Springs near Woodward, Pantlik said.
About 51 percent of the revenue at those parks is generated from concessions, activities and cabin rentals.
Pantlik said Oklahoma is one of the few states that markets beyond its own borders and internationally. Eighty percent of the state’s advertising goes out of state, while 20 percent targets Oklahomans, she said.
Surveys show travel in Oklahoma is split 35 percent for business travel and 65 percent for leisure. About 73 percent of travelers are non-residents, Pantlik said, and the average expenditure is $731. The major out-of-state markets for Enid are the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Wichita, Kan., according to the state tourism department.
The department has been successful in reaching out to the private sector to assist in promoting the state. The newest promotion involves Oklahoma Ford Dealers, which will help promote Oklahoma in their advertising. The department also is working on a contract with the Cherokee Nation, and recently agreed on a lease with the Chickasaw Nation to operate an information center.
Pantlik said the department plans more partnerships with private sector sources and promotion of state parks to let people in the state and nation know what is here.
The state also has benefited from movies being filmed here. In the past five years, a number of movies have been made in the state, generating about $35 million, she said.
“There is a three-to-one return on our investment in movies,” she said.