In 2021, Oklahoma’s tourism industry showed an impressive rebound, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. New research commissioned by the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation (OTRD) shows the industry generated a record $10.1 billion in direct visitor spending, increasing industry employment by 4, 6% and outpacing visitor spending in 2019 by 3.2%.
“I am incredibly proud of the impressive strides made by our state’s tourism industry,” said Governor Kevin Stitt. “Tourism is Oklahoma’s third largest industry, and its prominence in our economy is a testament to our people, our state, and our workforce. Every corner of Oklahoma offers unique experiences for locals and visitors alike, and I am grateful for the hard work of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, who are true ambassadors for the great State of Oklahoma.”
Oklahoma’s tourism industry generated $748 million in state and local taxes in 2021, an increase of 3.3% over 2019.
“Tourism is the gateway to economic development,” said Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, who also serves as Secretary of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage. “The record $10.1 billion that Oklahoma’s tourism industry generated in 2021 was invested directly in local communities, having a huge impact on businesses and schools. When we invest in tourism, it always pays off.”
OTRD says they were one of the first state tourism departments to run pandemic-focused marketing campaigns promoting outdoor activities and travel. They say the quick pivot helped them recover faster.
“The record numbers are proof that our state has something incredibly special to offer,” said OTRD Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt. “I am proud of the tremendous efforts of this agency, and I look forward to starting 2023 strong with new efforts and initiatives to continue to grow Oklahoma’s tourism industry.”
The #OKHereWeGO pandemic response advertising campaign, launched in May 2020, generated more than $50 million in revenue from hotel accommodations statewide in 2021. With an investment of $748,430 from the state, the campaign produced a return of investment of 50:1. The campaign also brought more than 235,000 users to TravelOK.com and inspired more than 29,000 visits to the park.
In August 2020, the department launched the Oklahoma Route 66 Passport, a program that allows travelers to collect stamps while exploring the more than 400 miles of Oklahoma’s Mother Highway. More than 1.2 million unique visitor trips along Route 66 in Oklahoma have been inspired by the first edition, with more than 100 travelers, domestic and international, completing the 66 passport stops.
Oklahoma’s recovery in travel compared to 2019 (i.e., 86.6%) outpaces the country’s recovery in domestic travel overall (82.2%).
While in-state visitation increased in 2021, out-of-state visitors accounted for 55% of total in-state visitor volume.
Visitors to Oklahoma state parks alone generated more than $354 million in spending for the state. These visitors created nearly 3,000 jobs throughout the state of Oklahoma.
The department’s investigation was conducted by research firms Dean Runyan Associates and Omnitrak Group Inc. For the full reports, visit TravelOK.com/Industry.
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