MIAMI —The tourism industry in northeastern Oklahoma has been given the green light to get back up and running.
Green Country Tourism — formerly the Green Country Marketing Association — officially launched its #GreenMeansGo campaign Thursday afternoon during a press conference at the Miami Travel Information Center on the Will Rogers Turnpike.
The campaign is designed to highlight Green Country and try to get travelers to generate tourism dollars in what will likely be a “staycations” kind of summer in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
It piggybacks the #OKHereWeGO campaign that was rolled out by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department last month.
Tourism is the third-largest industry in Oklahoma and according to one survey, the Miami-Grove area is the third most popular tourist destination in the state behind Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
Amanda Davis, director of Visit Miami OK, and Donnie Crain, director of the Grove Convention and Tourism Bureau also were part of the program.
The Miami tourism center, which reopened on May 18, had a steady flow of traffic passing through while the press conference was underway and approximately 7,779 visitors since the doors reopened.
It has 250,000 annual visitors, Davis said.
“COVID-19 has had a really devastating impact on tourism, not only here in the four states and northeastern Oklahoma but throughout the world. A lot of people realized we needed to flatten the curve, so travel was deemed non-essential,” Crain said. “We’ve realized as a board with Green Country Tourism that we have a rough road ahead from this pandemic into what is going to be the new normal circumstances. We also have realized, too, that we have the perfect destination for folks that are looking for vacation opportunities that are fun, safe and affordable — if its driving down Route 66 in your convertible, if it’s enjoying Grand Lake out there on your boat or taking a canoe trip down the Illinois River.
“There are so many different things and much more we have here in Green Country.”
Youth sports have helped ease Miami’s economic bounce back: it’s been a popular destination for baseball and softball tournaments.
“It’s about $400,000 that we’ve been able to track that are brand-new dollars that have come into the community,” Davis said. “Those are dollars that continue to be poured into our restaurants and convenience stores. These are people who are coming into the region. This is what tourism is. This is who we are and what we do.”
GCT covers Ottawa, Delaware, Craig, Adair, Creek, Cherokee, Mayes, McIntosh, Muskogee, Nowata, Okmulgee, Osage, Pawnee, Rogers, Sequoyah, Tulsa, Wagoner and Washington counties.
It’s one of six multi-county tourism promotional organizations in Oklahoma.
“We couldn't do it without the partner’s support,” Stewart said.
The new name of the organization is an attempt to be more explanatory as to what GCT’s mission statement is.
“We get more questions ‘where is Green Country at?’ or ‘ What is Green Country?’” Stewart said. “It explains who we are and what we do.”
The Green Country Marketing Association was developed in 1965 because there was no practically economic development in the state, especially in the northeast corner, Stewart said.
“A group of leaders in the area met at Phillips Petroleum (which then was based in Bartlesville) with the chairman and they developed this organization simply to promote and bring people here as an economic impact for the area,” Stewart said.
The GCMA was the first of its type in Oklahoma.
“We predate the tourism department,” Stewart said. “Gov. Nigh (former Gov. George Nigh) said “this is really working well.’
“They said ‘this is really working; why don’t we have a tourism department?’”