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Digitizing local tourism | Business

Norman celebrated a special luncheon last week dedicated to Oklahoma’s third largest industry — tourism.

“Travel generates $2.3 trillion for the U.S. economy on an annual basis,” Dan Shemm, VisitNorman’s Executive Director said during the meeting. “For Oklahoma, tourism is the state’s third largest industry and that hasn’t changed.”

In Cleveland County, travelers spent $308 billion as of the most recent figures from 2015, according to Shemm.

He also said studies show people are happier after they spend money on an experience, like traveling. So while he knows tourism in Norman brings money into the city, he also knows what he and VisitNorman does can make people happier.

Carol Dillingham, the VisitNorman board chair for the 2017 fiscal year, shared more about how VisitNorman has worked to accomplish these two missions.

“I have really enjoyed my two years as the chair of this board,” Dillingham said.

She said VisitNorman has launched a new website, changing from an out-dated, hard to navigate digital presence to a modern user-friendly site that is compatible with VisitNorman’s new mobile app.

The new website debuted in early March.

The app has been active for a few months and Dillingham suggested even long-time Normanites download the app. She has already heard of a few families using the search functions to find new restaurants in town or a unique attractions and businesses that don’t usually come to mind.

VisitNorman has also increased their active internet presence with a blog, allowing them to aggregate and recommend different stories, events and businesses. The group has also dived head-first into video, with their own YouTube channel featuring long and short videos on different events in Norman.

Dillinger said their video push started with a video created by McMahon Marketing then continued by the efforts of one of their interns and their staff.

“Studies have shown that the average internet-user spends 55 minutes per day with digital video via desktop or mobile devices in 2015,” Dillinger said. “An increase of 11 minutes from the previous year, so it’s not just the cat videos. It’s where to go, what to do, how to get there.”

Their video arsenal contains multiple 30 second “niche” clips targeted at different markets that have been broadcasted on regional sports sports broadcasts.

“It is so easy and exciting to find out what is happening in Norman now,” Dillingham said.

Dillingham also talked about the community marketing efforts undertaken by VisitNorman with the Norman Economic Development Coalition and the Norman Chamber of Commerce. The research portion of the study rolled out earlier in the year, and Dillinger said they are now using what they learned to rebrand Norman through social channels.

“Together, we’ve come up with some exciting ideas to show that a place where people want to visit is a place where people want to live and a place where business wants to set up shop,” Dillingham said. “It’s all about building all the aspects of community, and this has been such a great year of really working together.”

Before Dillingham spoke at the luncheon, Shemm said she volunteered to take on a second term as the board chair when last year’s vice chair moved out of Norman.

“We have been busy,” Dillingham said.

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