Zumwalt plans to put Oklahoma on the must-visit list

Newly appointed Oklahoma Secretary of Tourism Shelley Zumwalt wants to dramatically expand Oklahoma’s tourism industry. (VICTOR LOPEZ/THE VISTA)


Tourism is currently the third-largest industry in Oklahoma, and between historic destinations like Route 66 and new booming locations like Beavers Bend State Park, newly-appointed Secretary of Tourism Shelley Zumwalt said she hopes to see an influx of tourists coming into Oklahoma in 2024.

     On Jan. 16, Gov. Kevin Stitt named Zumwalt the new secretary of tourism for the state of Oklahoma. Along with her new title, Zumwalt continues to serve concurrently as executive director of Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.

     “The tourism department here in this state has worked really hard to get to this point, long before I got here,” said Zumwalt.

     As of 2023, the Oklahoma Department of Tourism has seen an increase of travel spending to a record-amount of $11.8 billion.

     “We’ve got such a talented team that has really been working hard to get to that point,” said Zumwalt.

     Zumwalt credits the advertising campaign promoting Oklahoma State Parks as one of the biggest contributors to the record-breaking year in 2023.

     “We dedicated a small amount of money to really promoting those parks with the ‘Best Summer Ever’ campaign,” said Zumwalt. “And we saw a 30% increase in lodging in just a really short amount of time.”

     “People want to go to the parks, they just need to know about them,” said Zumwalt.

     One of the key places that Zumwalt felt was important to discuss in the campaign was Route 66, highlighting the fact that Oklahoma has the most miles of Route 66 out of any state.

     “We really leaned into, ‘What are those key things we need to be promoting along Oklahoma’s route,’” said Zumwalt.

     She went on to discuss the thought process behind promoting Route 66 as well as other Oklahoma landmarks.

     One of the challenges faced was ensuring the enhancements of the state parks, as well as keeping them clean and available to the public.

     “Having well-maintained state parks and really a robust plan around how we want people to experience them is essential,” said Zumwalt when discussing how to attract tourists and Oklahomans to the state parks.

     Moving away from discussing the state parks, Zumwalt also focused on how tourism plays a key role in incentivising people to move to and stay in Oklahoma.

     “We’re kind of a gateway industry for people relocating to Oklahoma,” said Zumwalt.

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