Hospitality industry recovering slowly in Oklahoma City

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Government-imposed restrictions on traveling and fear for health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic hit Oklahoma City's hospitality and tourism industry hard.

Pre-pandemic numbers show that tourism is Oklahoma’s third-largest industry and directly impacts Oklahoma City by generating 7.5 million annual visitors, who spend $2.3 billion to boost our local economy. Tourism directly employs more than 22,200 people in Oklahoma City and generates $355 million in tax receipts.

Hotel occupancy, air travel and car rentals have fallen greatly in the past year in Oklahoma City, as they have across the country.

But all is not gloom and doom. As the greater economy begins to recover, many are optimistic that Oklahoma City's hospitality and tourism industry will pick up as more people feel safe getting out and about.

“Oklahoma City is resilient and has shown this repeatedly,” Zac Craig, president of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, told The Center Square.

“Compared to many of our peer cities, we’re poised for continued growth thanks to the newly opened OKC Convention Center, a strong sporting and equine events business, as well as robust interest from leisure visitors to experience our growing list of distinct and exciting attractions.”

While hovering around 50%, hotel occupancy is better than it was one year ago, and that is a hopeful sign. According to The Oklahoman, business leaders are expecting business travel to resume in July, and spring break travel numbers were better than expected.

Though it may be slow, the outlook for the recovery of this industry is positive.

“Different sectors of the hospitality industry will recover at different paces, but our mix positions us well,” Craig said. “Looking forward in 2021, national hotel occupancy is projected to increase to near 55% and we expect Oklahoma City to continue mirroring U.S. occupancy trends.”

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