Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb’s Travel and Tourism Summit made the first of two stops Monday in El Reno, with two information sessions and a town hall meeting being held at the Public Safety Center.
A collection of Main Street members, business people, bloggers and members of the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association were in attendance.
Three people of influence, El Reno Mayor Matt White, speaker Sheila Scarborough and Lamb —took turns discussing the value of tourism for the state of Oklahoma and the community of El Reno.
Before introducing the other two speakers, White briefed the audience on some things El Reno has done recently to increase tourism and commerce.
“Perception becomes reality,” said White. “When we Googled El Reno, what came up was that we had the world’s largest tornado. We want to be known for a lot more than that.”
Several plans for the growth of the city are already in place.
“I talked to Kirk Humphreys, former mayor of Oklahoma City, and he helped us with our Route 66 sign. People have been sharing that so much that it will eventually be the main image that comes up when people search for El Reno on Google.
“For our marketing, including billboards and slogans, we want something that will stick in people’s minds.”
Marketing-related pictures and videos were shown on the screen, including El Reno’s slogan: Close to you, far from ordinary. During the presentation, particular attention was given to El Reno’s media campaign.
One of the video ads shown was a picturesque succession of scenery ranging from Lake El Reno to historic downtown.
This ad, along with others, was recently played on local television stations for a period of three months, and it will continue to advertise for another three.
Local magazines detailing available activities in El Reno are also being sent out to people in other towns, which is where 60 percent of our city’s sales tax comes from.
White said the key issue for El Reno besides approachability is our future — the children.
“The recent park upgrades were something we were really excited about. Things like that are really important to the children who will one day grow up and work in our community.”
Sheila Scarborough was next to speak. She was in the Navy for 23 years, and is now the owner of Tourism Currents, a company that educates people on the link between tourism and social media.
The point she drove home was that tourism is vital to both a community and a state, and one of the best ways to promote it is through blogging.
“You have to know what your goals are and what kind of visitors you want to bring to town,” said Scarborough.
“The most important thing is that you write about topics and events that interest people.”
According to Scarborough, promoting for a blog or a website is different than promoting via social media.
“The most important quality of a blog is that it’s a part of your own online real estate. You can tell your story your way, without having to pay any other entity. You’re a publisher, just like a magazine or website, and you’re also a distributor. It gives you a lot of control over making sure visitors get a true picture of your community.”
Scarborough gave many tips for advertising through the Internet including details on blog categories, search engine optimization and making good use of personal time.
“Your phone isn’t just a phone. It’s the whole world at your fingertips. That can become distracting, but it can also be used for the spreading of important information.”
Scarborough made it clear that everyone in a city can work together to promote the history and events of their home, paying special attention to the public image of their locale.
“We have the advantage today of powerful online tools to make destinations known, and they are mostly free. Don’t be afraid of them, grab them and use them. It’s all about sharing through blogging, Instagram, Facebook and other outlets. To promote tourism, citizens should also share with the tourism organizations of their community.”
The final speaker was Lamb, the second highest executive official in the state of Oklahoma. He has held his current political position since 2011, and has had a long and noteworthy history with matters of government.
He served as a site supervisor for President George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign, and he was appointed to the national Joint Terrorism Task Force in 2001, where he helped investigate the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Lamb was introduced by Mayor White as “a great son of Oklahoma” and he spoke fondly of El Reno and its desire to expand through tourism.
“El Reno is a special place to me,” said Lamb. “I grew up in Enid, and that’s right off of 81. We would visit El Reno and compete in sports all the time, and the town has become very familiar to me.”
In the same vein as White, the future of Lamb’s children and the children of Oklahoma is of the utmost importance.
“Wearing the hat not only of lieutenant governor but also of a parent, we’ve taken opportunities with our kids to educate them on the history and the events of Oklahoma. What I want as a dad is that my kids do well, that they are healthy and happy.
“I also want my kids to be Oklahomans for the rest of their lives, even if they visit faraway places. As a dad I want them in Oklahoma. If they’re in Oklahoma, then my grandkids will be. Being strong advocates for the tourism industry, we cannot take that for granted.”
Lamb and his team were grateful for the opportunity to hold the tourism summit in El Reno.
“We appreciate the mayor and the city of El Reno for holding the tourism summit. Having the summit here in El Reno is important — it’s part of my neck of the woods.”
Lamb wishes for both public and private tourism industries to work together and let every voice be heard, spreading a good image of our land and bringing more people into the state of Oklahoma.
“What better industry to be the tutor, mentor, professor and teacher than tourism? There's so much to brag about and so much to point to that indicates a strong economic engine for Oklahoma.”
The final stop for this year’s Tourism Summit will commence next week in Lamb's hometown.