“Tulsa’s Road to Recovery”: Brian Williams – Show Notes

  • Name: Adam Stoker
  • Position: Co-founder and CEO of Relic Agency
  • Favorite Destination: Fiji
  • Dream Destination: New Zealand
  • Name: Brian Williams
  • Position: Vice President of Business Administration for Tulsa Regional Tourism
  • Favorite Destination: Rocky Mountains of the West or Savannah, Georgia
  • Dream Destination: Pacific Coast Highway trip or New Zealand/Australia trip

“Tulsa’s Road to Recovery” – Show Notes and Highlights

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Show Highlights

Brian’s Background

  • Brian graduated with a marketing degree during the Great Recession, so he couldn’t find a marketing-specific job. He worked for a bank and a publishing office before moving to Tulsa and gaining nonprofit experience. From there, he became the accounting manager at the Tulsa Regional Chamber and then moved into the tourism sphere. 
  • He’s been in tourism for about one year and is loving it. Having come in with little destination knowledge, he feels as if the Coronavirus has leveled the playing field because no one knows quite what to expect. 

Tulsa — The Destination

  • Tulsa is a great destination because of its “Dust Bowl” spirit. There is grit, tenacity, and determination that calls back to self-sufficiency and self-reliance. 
  • Tulsa has a diverse community with different experiences for different people. 
  • The Gathering Place is one such location you can visit and “is one of the largest private parks ever, period, full stop,” said Brian. It was provided “as a place for all of Tulsa to experience all of Tulsa’s great attributes. Walking through the attraction, you can’t help but feel like it’s been accomplished.”
    • Many people came together to make the Gathering Place happen. It was a generous, philanthropic effort that identified the community’s strengths and has made a positive impact.

Funding Tulsa

  • Tulsa is still predominantly funded through lodging and bed tax, similar to other DMOs. However, a few years ago, the organization realized it was missing out on opportunities, and presented to local businesses that tourism is related to economic development, showing them how their businesses could further support the DMO.
  • Having the Tulsa Regional Chamber in charge of tourism and also own the economic development division for the region helps to establish this funding model.
  • The organization realized that you need to show the community that tourism jobs are fun. You need to show the community what makes your destination attractive and if the people working in the industry, believe it, they’ll create a positive feedback loop for everyone else. It creates a wonderful spirit of collaboration.
  • This symbiotic relationship has helped them during the Coronavirus crisis to lift the community and continue to be a driving force of success for the whole area.

Recovery Plans with Community Support

  • From the beginning, Tulsa intended to ask the community and stakeholders how the tourism bureau could support them. The Tourism Recovery Task Force was created and had meetings to collaborate their efforts. They create subgroups that collected feedback and ideas. They brought in industry experts to speak on the topics that people were most worried about in the main attractions and destinations. It was a success.
  • Many times we do things in marketing only because it’s always been done that way. We need to ask ourselves “why” we are doing things. View this as an opportunity to take feedback and listen to your audiences and stakeholders and try something different.
  • Overall, the recovery plan will start locally, focusing on the community and recentering on attractions, venues, and cleanliness. Then, they will focus on drive markets and gain interest in them coming to a place that has lifted restrictions and is at the literal “Crossroads of America.” From there, they will expand even more and use this as an opportunity to obtain a greater leisure market.
  • “Our job, ultimately, is to show everyone how cool Tulsa is,” Brian said. “We’re going to show them what Tulsa is, and then we’re going to tell them to come here and prove it.”

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast