At a recent town hall meeting, Oklahoma Lt. Governor Todd Lamb made a pretty good case that the tourism industry is one of, if not the most undervalued industry. “Few grasp the tourism industry’s impact on Oklahoma. They don’t realize U.S. travelers spend $7.2 billion in Oklahoma in 2012 or tourism generated $385.3 million in state taxes – the third largest revenue stream in state government – and $188.5 million in local taxes that year.”

rodney no respect

Beyond the numbers are all of the issues destination marketing professionals have to deal with. I recently spoke to a Chamber Leadership Class about issues related to tourism. After I shared my list, they started sharing theirs and frankly, I was speechless.

There’s the issues to be expected:

– the belief by residents that there’s ‘nothing to do’ and thus, they don’t help promote the destination.

– the lack of a high-class, ‘white cloth’ restaurant

– the lack of night life

– the lack of quality and variety of retail

– the need to improve downtown

But then there were the issues that again, left me speechless. Destination marketing professionals work with real estate developers, volunteers, elected officials, our Chambers and economic development offices to spur growth in our downtowns, add variety to the retail mix (or add retail to a heavy office use.) We work to beautify our entryways and make good first impressions.

How do you deal with out of state oil companies that don’t ‘buy into the local community’ through sponsorships or volunteerism? They certainly don’t show appreciation to the community by keeping their work spaces clear of debris or mowed (let alone landscaped.) What’s the solution to those same companies that over occupy the hotel rooms and stain them with their dirty, grimy work boots and clothes? And find an answer to very high paying drilling positions – so high that mothers and girl-friends don’t have to find a job leaving many retail and service (restaurant) jobs left unfilled.

Then there’s drugs. I have been privileged to go through DMAI’s Certified Destination Marketing Executive program and countless tourism conferences. Never once did the subject of drugs come up. But in some destinations, it is a real issue that is affecting tourism.

Too many believe a CVB simply places ads, mails visitor guides and on occasion, put on an event. Destination marketing involves management of the issues related to the community as an attractive destination to visitors – valuable visitors spending a LOT of money – so much money that, at least in Oklahoma, tourism is the third largest revenue generating industry in the state. That is a profession worth some respect.

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