THE IMPACT OF THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY IN OKLAHOMA CITY –
May 6-12 is National Travel & Tourism week, making it the perfect time to explore the impact that the hospitality industry has on the Oklahoma City regional economy. According to data prepared by Dean Runyan Associates for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, hospitality continues to be the third-largest industry in Oklahoma and has a significant impact on the local economy.
In 2016, the industry generated $8.6 billion in travel-spending revenue statewide and $120 million in state tax revenue. In the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the travel industry provides more than 32,798 jobs, with $747 million in payroll. The industry also generates $100 million in local tax receipts, dollars that help fund important city services, infrastructure improvements and quality-of-life projects.
Beyond the monetary impact, tourism amenities also increase Oklahoma City’s quality of life and its branding on a national level. Despite the dramatic change that Oklahoma City has experienced over the past two decades, people continue to have outdated perceptions about our community, and tourism can directly combat that. According to research done by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, tourism marketing has a halo effect on economic growth. People exposed to tourism advertising were more likely to start a career, launch a business or choose to live in the state. Hosting meetings and events in Oklahoma City also exposes first-time visitors to the area’s renaissance, making them more likely to return.
With multiple new facilities planned for the next few years and attraction improvements underway or already completed, Oklahoma City will have an increased ability to attract more conventions and events. Through the MAPS 3 program, the Oklahoma State Fair Park and the Oklahoma River made significant improvements that will attract more visitors each year. The USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, the venue that will host the Women’s College World Series until 2035, also plans to add an additional deck of seating and other improvements to the existing facility.
In addition, new facilities will begin to serve the convention and visitor market in the next two years. The MAPS 3-funded Oklahoma City Convention Center will feature 200,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 30,000-square-foot ballroom and 45,000 square feet of dedicated meeting space which will allow Oklahoma City to compete for 80 percent or more of the events held in the United States. The adjacent convention center headquarters hotel, operated by Omni Hotels & Resorts, will add approximately 50,000 square feet of ballroom and meeting space. The nearby Scissortail Park and the connectivity provided by the Oklahoma City Streetcar will provide benefits for Oklahoma City’s visitors and residents alike.
Key to the ongoing success of the hospitality industry is Oklahoma City’s hotels. As of May 1, downtown Oklahoma City is home to 20 hotels with 2,198 hotel rooms. There are an additional four under construction with a total of 495 rooms. With eight more hotels announced and their additional 1,557 rooms, downtown Oklahoma City could have a total of 32 hotels with 4,250 rooms when all projects are complete.
In the remainder of the Oklahoma City city limits, there are 152 hotels with 15,181 rooms plus an additional 21 in some phase of development totaling 2,019 more rooms. If all of these plus the properties in the downtown area are built, Oklahoma City will have a total of 21,450 hotel rooms.
The reason Oklahoma City’s hospitality industry is seeing growth is because our community continues to invest in itself through quality-of-life improvements. As we continue to shape what Oklahoma City will look like in the future, it is key to continue making investments that will appeal to residents, visitors, and people who will one day call Oklahoma City home.
Everyone should pay attention to Roy Williams. His projections for the future of Tourism’s benefits to Oklahoma City are correct. The capacity of OKC in accommodating Tourism and Conventions has improved and expanded so remarkably since I was involved in the 1970’s. Yet there is much opportunity for more, especially for major attractions. Use your imagination Oklahoma City,unimmagined opportunity is here.
Harry Wilson, Former Direction of the State of Oklahoma Tourism Division and Director of the OKC Conventin and Topurism Center.