NORMAN — Tourism professional, Dan Schemm, was living in Wichita, Kan. and loving it. He knew it would take something pretty special to make him leave those friendly, Midwestern digs. That something was Norman.
Schemm took over the helm of the Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau as executive director this month and will join an established team — Stefanie Brickman, Susan Bash, Michelle Hohlier and Taylor Mauldin.
“It’s an excellent staff,” Schemm said. “I’m thrilled to come here.”
Schemm is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He has a degree in environmental science and an MBA in finance and international business.
“I love Norman,” he said. “At some point, I wanted to come back home. The opportunity came along to come back and to do what I love to do which is to sell Norman.”
Schemm and wife Lindsay have already sold their home in Wichita and are ready to embrace the Norman community. The great schools and university environment are a big draw.
“As we’re trying to attract meetings, conventions and conferences here, people want to see a vibrant community with a high quality of life,” he said.
Schemm grew up in Edmond and remembers high school days running cross country and competing with Norman. Now, those two communities are part of the same regional market.
“The competition for leisure visitors and group travel is getting more and more fierce,” he said.
The NCVB will be 21 years old this year. Schemm said the industry has gone through a lot of changes since the inception of the bureau. Being close to Will Rogers World Airport and having the name recognition because of OU is a big plus for attracting visitors to Norman, he said.
Schemm would like to see Norman and the state of Oklahoma have even more recognition out in the world. He said it’s not that people have a bad perception of Oklahoma — it’s that they have no perception of Oklahoma. He wants to help change that.
Measuring the success of a convention and visitors bureau can be a challenge, but Schemm believes the work the NCVB does makes a difference, and he knows tourism pays off.
“There are industry standards that we use to determine the economic impact of a visitor,” he said.
While it might be easier if every visitor wore a bright pink hat and were easily identifiable, that isn’t the case, but there are other ways to measure tourism, he said.
“Tourism truly is an economic driver,” Schemm said. “Visiting is fun — we’re selling fun.”
For every visitor that books a stay in a Norman hotel, that person may also be shopping, eating at restaurants, visiting entertainment venues, buying gasoline, event tickets and more.
One of Schemm’s proudest accomplishments before coming here was winning the bid to bring the U.S. Bowling Congress Women’s Championships to Wichita.
“That brings over 30,000 women bowlers to the community over the course of three months,” he said.
That level of event will have an estimated $14 million impact.
“They have the facilities and, within the bowling community, they have the name recognition,” he said.
Still, Reno, Nev. also has those things and competed hard for the event. Schemm said you can’t get complacent in the convention and tourism business. He’ll bring that attitude to Norman.
“We’re not only going to go out and bring new events to town,” he said. “We’ll work to keep events.”
Schemm said the NCVB is looking for help from involved members of the community to give them leads on organizations.
“Norman is such a great community,” he said. “We’re looking for hometown heroes.”
Those community partners can provide leads of professional organizations and leisure time groups that may be looking for their next venue for a convention or event.
“We’ll do all the work,” Schemm said. “Just point us in the right direction.”
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