Travel industry positioned for recovery
Oklahoma City’s burgeoning tourism industry is positioned smartly for a faster recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in terms of leisure and business travel, according to leading officials in the industry.
While the effects of the pandemic have stalled leisure and convention plans at cities across the United States, Oklahoma City remains in a prime spot to forge ahead as the recovery continues. The eagerly anticipated opening of two of OKC’s premier new additions to our visitor offerings remain on schedule. Target dates remain the spring of 2021 for the opening of the 17-story, 605- room Omni Hotel and the adjacent Oklahoma City Convention Center which boasts more than 275,000 square feet of meeting space.
Construction on the Oklahoma City Convention Center is still on schedule. The bathrooms are nearly complete and flooring has started. The building is estimated at 65% complete and on track to be finished by Sept. 19. Events will start months afterward so the ASM Global management staff can get acquainted with the facility.
“Our current message to meeting planners and leisure travelers is to reassure them that once the timing is right, Oklahoma City is a destination that will be safe and accommodating to all types of travel interests,” said Lindsay Vidrine, vice president of destination marketing for the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are in a prime spot to recover faster than some of the larger cities who rely more on air travel and international visitation.”
“Many cities across the U.S. are pivoting their efforts to focus on capturing leisure travelers seeking road trips closer to home, as that is the sector that’s predicted to return first. We’re already a strong regional drive market destination, and a lot of the trips that we see are from families or couples. Indications are that air travel, cruise ships and resort locations that typically draw large crowds will likely take longer in the recovery process.People still want to get away. They still want to make memories and salvage what’s left for a summer vacation. We think those who drive in from neighboring states will be the first to come. Online search interest for travel in late July through Labor Day is picking up, so we see there is cautious optimism,” Vidrine said.
While business travel may lag initially, expectations are it will rebound as well but at a slower rate. On the business side, the CVB continues to push hotel travel incentives that were in place before the outbreak of the COVID-19, as well as help meeting planners navigate the complexities of deciding to postpone or cancel events.
“Our convention sales and servicing team provides necessary resources for convention planners dealing with a variety of short- and long-term challenges,” Vidrine said. “We are working to postpone events, not cancel, the ones on the books. A lot of factors go into it. Switching dates involves venue availability, hotel blocks and many other puzzle pieces.”
Vidrine said the CVB team was able to avoid a complete cancellation from a large national convention gathering by providing an alternative date in 2023.
“Despite the immediate challenges that COVID-19 brings, there remains a lot of excitement around Oklahoma City as a destination of choice,” said Vidrine. “We continue to work to inspire people across the nation and world that OKC will be ready and waiting when people are ready to visit.”