Oklahoma Tourism Industry generates record breaking $10.1 billion in direct visitor spending in 2021 

Visitors to Oklahoma’s state parks alone generated more than $354 million in spending for the state. These visitors generated nearly 3,000 jobs across the state of Oklahoma. 

There were 17.7 million visitors to the state in 2021, supporting 96,800 industry jobs 

OKLAHOMA CITY — In 2021, Oklahoma’s tourism industry showed an impressive rebound, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. New research commissioned by the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department shows the industry generated a record breaking $10.1 billion in direct visitor spending, increasing industry employment by 4.6% and exceeding 2019 visitor spending 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’m thankful for the hard work of the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department who are true ambassadors for the great State of Oklahoma.” 

The Oklahoma tourism industry generated $748 million in state and local taxes in 2021, an increase of 3.3% over 2019. That translates to an annual tax savings of $485 for every Oklahoma household, supporting 96,800 jobs. 

“Tourism is the front door to economic development,” said Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, who also serves as Secretary of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage. “The record breaking $10.1 billion that Oklahoma’s tourism industry generated in 2021 was invested right back into local communities, making a huge impact on businesses and schools. When we invest in tourism, it pays off every time.” 

As the pandemic dramatically altered travel demand, OTRD pivoted quickly, becoming one of the first states to run pandemic-focused marketing campaigns promoting outdoor recreation and travel. This swift marketing strategy enabled Oklahoma’s travel industry to rebound in record time.  

“Travelers from all over the world flock to Oklahoma, and the record-breaking 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 growing Oklahoma’s tourism industry.” 

The #OKHereWeGO pandemic-response advertising campaign, launched in May 2020, generated more than $50 million in statewide hotel lodging revenue in 2021. With an investment of $748,430 from the state, the campaign yielded a 50:1 return on investment. The campaign also drove 235,000-plus users to TravelOK.com and inspired over 29,000 park visits. 

In August 2020, the department launched the Oklahoma Route 66 Passport, a program that allows travelers to collect stamps as they explore Oklahoma’s 400+ miles of the Mother Road. More than 1.2 million unique visitor trips along Route 66 in Oklahoma have been inspired by the first edition, with over 100 travelers, domestic and international, completing all 66 passport stops.   

Oklahoma’s recovery in travel compared to 2019 (i.e., 86.6%) outpaces the country’s recovery in overall domestic travel (82.2%).  

While in-state visitation increased in 2021, out-of-state travelers still represent a higher proportion of visitation to Oklahoma. Out-of-state visitors accounted for 55% of the state’s total visitor volume. 

Visitors to Oklahoma’s state parks alone generated more than $354 million in spending for the state. These visitors generated nearly 3,000 jobs across the state of Oklahoma. 

The department’s research was conducted by research firms Dean Runyan Associates and Omnitrak Group Inc. Other data was provided by ADARA and Datafy. To view the full reports, visit TravelOK.com/Industry.  

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