Claremore's city manager has a lofty goal of welcoming one million visitors into Claremore.
Thanks to the Tourism Department, they're well on their way.
Tanya Andrews, representing the Expo Center and Tourism Department, gave the Claremore City Council a glimpse at what's going on in the department during their meeting this week.
She began by breaking down some significant numbers from the last fiscal year.
"The conference center brought in a lot of great opportunities for new business. The first year they hosted almost 20,000 people in the conference center and last year, they did the same," Andrews said, adding that this represents a “significant amount of new business” coming to town.
She said visitors have a significant impact on the community.
"In fiscal year 2017, we hosted over 307,000 visitors in the city limits of Claremore. Of that number, 160,000 were out of the expo center," she said. "RSU athletics brought in 47,393 visitors, between the athletes, coaches, fans and families. We're grateful to have them."
Between hotels, stores, restaurants, attractions and museums, Andrews said visitors represent a source of revenue for the city.
"The estimated visitor spending is more than $25 million," she said. "The average visitor spends $125 per night when they're staying in our hotels, and that includes meals and attractions and Walmart runs. When they're here visiting for the day they're spending about $67 per day."
She said last year saw a lineup of successful events.
The American Cowboy Rodeo Association Finals brought roughly 6,000 visitors to Claremore over the three-day event.
Andrews said the Expo hosted the four-state Bow Bash that brought in roughly 1,500 visitors.
"It turned out to be a great event, folks were staying in hotels and shopping. They want to make it an annual event so they'll be back in March. They're looking for about 2,000 people to come this next year," Andrews said.
Oklahoma Connection Academy's commencement was hosted in the Expo Center and brought roughly 1,400 visitors to town.
It's not just about tourism and sales tax dollars, she said.
"Another way our tourism industry and the expo center contribute to our economy are jobs. We touched more than 2,400 jobs just this last year. For the first time we polled our partners and vendors and restaurants and attractions, retailers — all the folks we know our visitors touch at one point during their visit," she said.
While the town's tourism numbers are growing, Andrews and her crew aren't slacking off.
"As we continue to market Claremore as a destination to our motorcoach groups, meetings and conventions, special events, and sports related groups — it's clear we need to open our doors wider for the leisure travelers," she said. "Last year the Miami Convention Visitors Bureau took over the Welcome Center in Miami. The state of Oklahoma gifted it to them to man and operate. Because it is a financial burden for them they sought out partners to help offset costs. We partnered with them and through that we gained an entire section for Claremore where previously we were lucky to have our visitors guide distributed through there."
She said Claremore now has a strong representation in the center.
Roughly 253,000 visitors traveling westbound on I-44 stop at this welcome center every year — and Andrews wants to capture as much of that market as possible.
"So we took it further and went down the road a little looking for billboards. I'm not a big fan of billboards or the billboard business. However, we felt it was a great way for Claremore to stand out. We partnered with Will Rogers Museum and by the two of us coming together we could get a better rate," she said. "So Visit Claremore is about Exit 285 and the will Rogers Billboard is right at Exit 255. Already our hotels and our attractions are noting a difference in walk-in business. People are telling them they saw the billboard and that's why they stopped."
Promotional videos, in conduction with RSU TV and NTC are in the works for the city.
"We're also doing a spring campaign in Wichita. We get a lot of visitors from that area so we're going to do some target marketing with radio and TV, print advertising, social media, etc. to offer a fall break getaway as well as a spring break getaway. We'll see how that goes," Andrews said.
New events are already on the calendar for this year.
The American Planners Association conference will be in town in October. The 100 to 150 attendees will have a reception at Main Street Tavern, dinner at the Will Rogers Memorial, a conference in the Claremore Conference Center and will be staying in Claremore hotels during their multi-night stay.