Oklahoma leaders pushing continued marketing

Published: Friday, January 9, 2009 7:00 am By: Steve Lackmeyer

The Oklahoman

The country may be stuck in a dire recession, but local marketing professionals were told Thursday now is the time for Oklahoma City to raise its profile with tourists and convention planners.

Mayor Mick Cornett, former Mayor Kirk Humphreys and Greater Oklahoma City Chamber President Roy Williams agreed the city is still moving forward as they addressed the Oklahoma City chapter of the American Marketing Association.

Cornett said local tourism promoters have focused on assets that include the presence of three interstate highways going through the city and the advantage residents who are involved in national groups might have in booking conferences.

A good salesman
Humphreys noted Cornett himself used his involvement with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to book its annual national convention at the Cox Convention Center in 2010.

"Our mayor is undoubtedly the best communicator and best salesman for a city as any," Humphreys said. "We are really blessed."

Cornett returned the compliment, saying the investment in downtown and the city led by Humphreys and other leaders has been critical to having a city worth boasting about.

"It wouldn't matter how good a salesman I might be if I didn't have a good product to sell," Cornett said.

Raising expectations
The panel agreed Oklahoma City is still struggling with low expectations.

Humphreys said he recently met an NBC network reporter at a Thunder game who was staying in Bricktown with his 11-year-old son while in town covering a game at Ford Center.

Humphreys quoted the reporter as saying he was surprised at what Oklahoma City had to offer and was going to return with his wife and another couple from his hometown of Dallas.

"What we always hear from convention visitors and tourists is that they come here with a relatively low expectation and they leave with their expectation exceeded," Williams said.

Williams said the city must strive to provide visitors with an "authentic experience" unique to Oklahoma City.

"One thing we've seen with our research is our American Indian heritage, our western heritage, is intriguing to people," Williams said.

Williams said spending on marketing is remaining steady while other cities are cutting back because of the recession.

Cornett hopes the city will maintain its momentum and added a MAPS 3 vote could happen as early as December.

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