View Full Version : OKC becoming quite a convention city

07-28-2005, 03:53 PM
Convention bookings are up. We're ranking well with third-tier cities when it comes to conventions. More hotels on the way will only help our cause.
It still blows my mind the things CVB officials are using as positives for our city: "very affordable city." We need to get off of that and start focusing more on what we have to offer in our downtown area and attractions. And I don't mean just the Bombing Memorial either.
"Reaching for tourism's second tier: City gathers more dollars in convention marketplace
by Brandice J. O'Brien
The Journal Record

Journal Record Photo
Oklahoma City may lack the big-city appeal of New York City and San Francisco, but as an up-and-coming third-tier metropolis, it can effectively compete in the regional tourist and convention markets.
Appealing to mainly rural Oklahoma and the populace of surrounding states Texas, Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas, Oklahoma City woos visitors with its backyard appeal and Western charm.

"We have tremendous Western heritage, a reputation for being a great place for meetings, we're centrally located in the United States with the crossroads of three major interstates, and are a very affordable city," said Steve Collier, executive director of the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Oklahoma City is at the very top of the third tier emerging to the second tier."

Cities on the same tier in the convention market as Oklahoma's capital city include Salt Lake City and Albuquerque, N.M.

In the 2004-05 fiscal year, Oklahoma City tallied an economic impact of about $159 million from conventions, an increase of about $39 million from the year before, Collier said.

Conventions in Oklahoma City tend to range from 1,000 to 3,000 visitors, yet bureau officials have seen nearly 9,000 people at a single gathering. This year, 116 conventions were scheduled for coming years, which is up 10.5 percent from the year before.

In the 2004 fiscal year, bureau officials underestimated the demand for hotel rooms by about 68,000 - more than 245,000 rooms were tentatively scheduled. The staff also anticipated that through trade shows and other marketing events, roughly 100 leads would result in convention bookings; about 200 conventions were booked from leads.

Oklahoma's capital city is also gaining attention as a vacation destination.

As a whole, the Sooner State was awarded the Most Underrated Vacation Destination in Southwest Airlines' Spirit Magazine's July issue of most neglected places in the country. Of the state's hot spots to see, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum was listed for its extensive collection of Western art.

Officials at the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department said their most recent data is from The Economic Impact of Travel on Oklahoma Counties 2002, a study done with the Travel Industry Association of America. While the study doesn't single out Oklahoma City's profits, Oklahoma County accounted for about one-third of the $3.9 billion in state tourism expenditures.

The 2004 input should be calculated by October.

"We market regionally and take advantage of being a capital city being right in our back yard," said Tina Gilliland, director of the travel and tourism division at the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. "We try to focus on demographics that work for us. We are a driving destination."

Approximately 10,600 tourists visited Oklahoma City in June, 28 percent more than June 2004. And in the 2005 fiscal year, there were 5 percent more visitors than the previous fiscal year, according to Oklahoma Tourism Information Center statistics.

One Oklahoma City district that will surely benefit from an onslaught of tourists this year is Bricktown.

More than $50 million in sales are predicted this year in Bricktown, not including Harkins Theatres or Bass Pro, according to Oklahoma City KEY Magazine research.

"Due to the tourism product that continues to develop because of MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) and the ever-growing attraction list to offer the visitor, Oklahoma City is truly becoming a real tourism destination within the region," Collier said."

07-28-2005, 05:30 PM
You're right, Patrick. The CVB needs to change their recruitment strategies. I can't believe they still complain about downtown hotel rates. Downtown hotels are selling out at premium rates-- of course they are not going to lower their rates for a convention the CVB is recruiting. They don't have to do that to fill up!

07-28-2005, 07:10 PM
What's so affordable anyway? Gas maybe... but that's offset by the parking costs. The food and entertainment is about the same as anywhere isn't it?

07-29-2005, 03:04 PM
I can't believe they still complain about downtown hotel rates.

I find this odd, too. You can stay downtown for $100/night, which is pretty comparable to starting rates in most urban settings. However, it may be high compared to other tier 3 cities with convention space in the suburbs. They may seem high only to the type of conventions and cities that we're competing with at this time. However, if we truly become a tier 2 destination, I think our rates will be favorable in that class. I think our biggest problem is simply hotel inventory, but that is being fixed.

The food and entertainment is about the same as anywhere isn't it?

For the most part I think that's right. I would say that our drinks may be cheaper than a lot of cities, but you can eat in the $8-$12 range in most cities if you want. It seems to me that if we lack anything, it's actually higher end entertainment and eateries.

But I would say that our parking costs are A LOT cheaper than a lot of cities. It's hard to find $2-$6 daily parking in many downtowns and it's abundant in OKC. So, combined with gas, that is a savings. However, I don't think we're talking about people who are looking to do a lot of driving. Our best convention pitch is that we have a lot of space next to a lot of entertainment and dining options.

Our image of affordability is really tied to our housing costs and, obviously, thatís not a concern of convention planners. I wonder what our convention costs per square foot are relative to other cities.