ERDA lauds tourism impact [Enid News & Eagle, Okla.]By Robert Barron, Enid News & Eagle, Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
July 18--ENID -- Tourism basically is getting people to come to your community and spend money.
It is a large industry in the United States and the third-largest in Oklahoma, said Deby Snodgrass, director of Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. She made the comments during Enid Regional Development Alliance's annual meeting Tuesday at Oakwood Country Club.
In 2010, travel expenditures nationally topped $750 billion, she said, and the numbers seem to be on an upward trend.
In Oklahoma, domestic travelers spent more than $6 billion in 2010, which generated nearly $350 million in tax revenue. Snodgrass said travel-generated payroll rose by 4.3 percent in 2009, with domestic travel generating nearly 75,000 jobs in the state.
Outdoor travel is one of leading categories nationally, she said, bringing to mind thoughts of beaches and the ocean. However, Snodgrass said hunting, fishing and wildlife watching generate lots of interest in visitors to the state.
"Oklahoma captures a greater share of domestic travel than surrounding states of similar size, even though New Mexico and Arkansas have tourism budgets nearly twice that of Oklahoma," she said.
Snodgrass told her audience Americans spend more on bicycling gear and trips than they do on airplane tickets and fees. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more jobs depending on trail sports than lawyers, she said, and more people fish in the United States than play golf or tennis.
In Oklahoma, outdoor recreation creates 20,000 jobs, pays $543 million in salaries and wages and generates $108 million in state and local taxes, according to the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. Sportsmen in Oklahoma support more jobs than Baptist Medical Center, St. Francis Health System and St. John Medical System, Snodgrass said, and spending by sportsmen equals the combined revenues of Continental Resources, SandRidge Energy and Diamondback Energy Services -- three of the fastest growing energy companies in the state.
People who come to Oklahoma are mostly leisure travelers, accounting for 65 percent of total expenditures. Nearly three in four travelers in the state are non-residents, and the average amount spent per trip is $371, and that number goes up to $608 if the trip is involves an overnight stay, Snodgrass said.
Although those numbers look good, the traditional means of getting the state's message out are not as successful as in the past, Snodgrass said. She said 85 percent of those who visited Oklahoma sites were Internet searchers.
The Internet has benefited some areas that may not have been as successful otherwise, she said, including cities smaller or about equal in size to Enid. Sturgis, S.D., makes about $800 million for a five-day motorcycle rally each year. Sturgis' population is about 6,600. Daytona Beach, Fla., population 61,000, features a Daytona Bike Week and Biketoberfest, which bring in about $600 million in direct impact to the area. Cody, Wyo., population 9,520, generates about $30 million a year from fishing and hunting and wildlife watchers.
Snodgrass said opportunities are wide open, and OKTourism.com has been a successful means of moving bringing Oklahoma nationwide attention.
Brent Kisling, ERDA director, said Enid needs to continue to invest in three primary sectors. First is in high-return areas, such as downtown, which is paying dividends and will continue to do so.
Enid also needs to make sure it has a developed work force to support its legacy businesses. Kisling said in the future, Enid is considering a virtual job fair, a new trend that places the fair online to be seen nationally.
Another area of investment is to plan for what happens after the oil boom.
"We have to be prepared for that," Kisling said. "Will it be in construction, agriculture processing or aerospace? We are part of an unmanned aircraft consortium with some surrounding states."
Beginning the meeting, ERDA board treasurer Bill Harris gave the financial report showing ERDA totaled $701,773 in income, with expenses of $662,555.
ERDA has assets totaling $1,432,000.
(c)2012 the Enid News & Eagle (Enid, Okla.)
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