Since February 2014, Norman’s convention and visitors bureau has branded itself VisitNorman to best reflect its mission and to make it more accessible to people who — you guessed it — want to visit Norman. In addition to University of Oklahoma sporting events, Norman has a number of festivals that are regional draws for visitors to the city.
To get a better idea of VisitNorman’s mission, the role of the city’s festivals in quality of life as well as in promoting tourism, we asked VisitNorman Executive Director Dan Schemm to talk about that interplay and the benefits of being the City of Festivals.
Q. What is the mission of VisitNorman and how do you promote the city to as a fun place to live and visit?
A. VisitNorman exists to promote the city, to attract overnight meeting, convention and sport and tourism business to the community and to enhance and contribute to the overall identity and economic wellbeing of the city. VisitNorman’s mission is to be the leader who proactively markets and develops Norman as the preferred destination in Oklahoma.
The VisitNorman team wakes up every day thinking about how to market Norman as a destination. Our website (www.VisitNorman.com) and app provide Norman’s locals and visitors a calendar of events, dining options and list of attractions. We have an extensive social media reach through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We advertise nationally in publications such as Midwest Living and the USA Today travel insert. We partner with the University to have banner ads on the game day central website and app. The team is also involved in the community as volunteers on a variety of boards, committees, events, festivals and other groups that we are passionate about. It’s easy to sell a destination when you love it as much as we all love Norman.
Q. Norman is known as the city of festivals. How does that impact the way our city is perceived by potential visitors?
A. Throughout the U.S., Norman, Oklahoma, has name recognition tied to the University of Oklahoma and, to a lesser degree, the National Weather Center. For most destination marketing organizations, that is the first hurdle to clear. Because we have some familiarity among the general public already, being able to talk about all the different things a visitor - whether in Norman for a conference or for a leisure trip - can experience pretty much year-round, is a great conversation to have. From the Chocolate Festival in January or February to the Christmas Parade in December, there are major events happening every few weeks. Add in the world-class museums, the everyday arts and entertainment and live music with our local dining and shopping options, and the rationale to make a trip to Norman is contagious.
Q. Do community events increase the quality of life for residents? If so, how and what role if any does VisitNorman play in facilitating that?
A. Community events absolutely play a role in the quality of life for residents. The staffs of VisitNorman, Norman Chamber of Commerce and Norman Economic Development Coalition have parallel missions which all contribute to that quality of life so we regularly collaborate, communicate and coordinate activities cooperatively. Whereas we are tasked with attracting outsiders to experience the quality of life Norman and stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants, shop at our stores and attend our events, the Chamber is seeking to bolster the Norman business community and the NEDC aims to bring jobs to Norman. Community events bring an energy and vibrancy to our City and our visitors can feel it. An event, like a festival or parade, that improves the quality of life for Norman citizens also helps to create a community that people want to visit.
Four years ago, Maura Gast, a former chair of Destination Marketing Association International made a keynote speech in Norman and said, “Build a place people want to visit, and you’ll build a place where people want to live. Build a place people want to live, and you’ll build a place where people want to work. Build a place where people want to work, and you’ll build a place where business has to be. Build a place where business has to be, and you’ll build a place where people have to visit.”
Q. What are some of your favorite festivals and why?
A. Wow, that is really hard to pick one! We love the plethora of events that Norman is able to offer ranging from festivals featuring edibles and drinkables to the parades with marching bands and floats. The opportunities to hear live music and concerts is endless and art lovers can see world-class art exhibitions. You can even travel back in time and catch a jousting match. From family friendly carnivals to after dark excitement, Norman offers something for everyone.
Q. What is the economic impact of tourism on Cleveland County?
A. When visitors come to Norman, they spend money at our hotels, restaurants, shops. They fill their cars up with gas and visit our museums and attractions. This all contributes the sales tax that is so important for our City. Recently, the Oklahoma Travel and Recreation Department published the Oklahoma Travel Impacts Study 2010-2014 by Dean Runyon Associates. In it, the economic impacts of travel were broken down by county. In 2014, travel and tourism in Cleveland County employed 4,450 workers and generated local taxes of $26.3 million. VisitNorman is in the business of economic development by bringing outside dollars into our community and into the City of Norman’s operating budget. Tourism is the state’s third-largest industry and as one of the largest counties in the state, what we do to promote Norman a travel destination has a cascading effect on all 77 counties.
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