Oklahoma Tourism Generates Record-High $9.6 Billion in Spending in 2018

Staff Writer
The Shawnee News-Star

New research from Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department shows industry generates more than $1 billion in local, state and federal taxes, supports 103,600 jobs in state.

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma travel and tourism industry generated a record $9.6 billion in direct spending by an estimated 21.5 million visitors in 2018, according to new research released by the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department.

Travel spending in Oklahoma increased by 7.3 percent since 2017 and has seen a 29 percent increase, equaling $2.2 billion, since 2010. Among major export industries, tourism is the state’s third-largest, with a gross domestic product (GDP) amounting to $3.6 billion. Between 2017 and 2018, travel industry GDP grew by 4.7 percent.

 “Travel and tourism have been a crucial and consistent economic driver for Oklahoma,” said Governor Kevin Stitt. “A key part of making Oklahoma a Top Ten state is showing the rest of the world what Oklahoma has to offer. Through tourism, we can do that.”

The industry has seen growth in jobs and earnings with increases for eight straight years, with both hitting record highs in 2018.  Direct travel-generated employment in the state was 103,600 in 2018, which is an increase of 20 percent since 2010. The earnings produced by these jobs grew to $2.4 billion in 2018; that’s a 39 percent increase from 2010.

In 2018, travel spending generated $1.1 billion in local, state and federal tax revenue combined. The industry has seen an $89 million increase in state taxes alone since 2010, and a $24 million increase over 2017.

The $708 million in state and local taxes generated in 2018 represents $460 per Oklahoma household of taxes paid by visitors that fund core government functions, displacing taxes Oklahoma residents would otherwise have to pay.

“We are so proud of the consistent gains the Oklahoma tourism industry has made in the past decade,” said Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, who is also the state’s Secretary of Tourism & Branding. “Travelers are figuring out what those of us who live here have known all along — Oklahoma is truly an incredible place.

“We’ve got great people, incredible natural resources and a fascinating history and culture. The state’s tourism industry is working hard to show our state off so that many others can experience it and bring their tourism dollars into Oklahoma. If you want to see America, you’ve got to see Oklahoma.”

The state’s return on investment for its tourism marketing program remains high. The Department’s 2019 spring marketing campaign generated six dollars in state and local tax revenue for every dollar invested in tourism advertising.

The department’s research was conducted by three industry-leading research firms: Dean Runyan Associates, Omnitrak Group Inc., and Longwoods International. The full research reports can be found online at TravelOK.com/Industry.

The department has already seen high returns from one of Pinnell’s early initiatives, the Oklahoma Fishing Trail, which was launched in June 2018 as a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“The fishing trail has gotten off to a great start,” said Jerry Winchester, executive director of the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department. “We’ve had a ton of interest from in and out of state, and we’re already seeing incredible results that will help bring people and revenue into Oklahoma’s lakeside communities.”

The department’s $200,000 investment in one month of the digital advertising campaign for the Oklahoma Fishing Trail has produced more than $20 million in projected lodging revenue, a 100-to-one return on investment, along with more than $1.5 million in state and local tax revenue.

These numbers were provided by ADARA, a pixel attribution tracking service the department has been using since 2017. ADARA provides more up-to-date data through agreements with travel brands around the world — including major hotel brands and airlines — to help understand travel patterns, trends and behaviors.

ADARA’s real-time data shows that the department’s spring digital advertising campaign of $1.17 million has produced more than $128 million in projected lodging revenue and more than $10 million in state and local tax revenue. That’s a 110-to-one return on investment for lodging revenue.

About the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department

The Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department works to preserve, maintain and promote the state’s natural assets and cultural richness through tourism. The Department’s Travel Promotions division administers programs designed to build awareness of the state as a destination and educates on the economic importance of the Oklahoma travel and tourism industry. The staff also oversees the agency’s marketing and promotions efforts along with operating Tourism Information Centers located at major entry points around the state. To learn more about the Department, visit TravelOK.com.