Don't scratch that niche!

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Mad Okie has some useful thoughts on aspects of Tulsa that might attract tourists, but we seem to be embarrassed by them:

God, Oil, Route 66 & Native Americans

What do all of these things have in common? They are what Tulsa is known for. Of those, what does Tulsa promote? Until recently, none.

Way back in 1999, I was part of the Research Committee of the City and Chamber's Convention and Tourism Task Force. At the time, we thought they genuinely wanted research into the economic impact of conventions and tourism and how best to move forward, but in fact the process was predetermined to put the downtown arena back on the ballot. We had some interesting discussions, at any rate, and one discussion was about niche interests that would bring tourists to the Tulsa area. In addition to the above list, add Western Swing music (which Mad Okie mentions later in his entry), cowboys, and tornadoes. About 10 years ago, I had a conversation in a woolen shop in Ardara, Co. Donegal, Ireland, with a German tourist who very much wanted to come to Oklahoma for storm chasing.

Here's something I wrote following the Mayor's Vision Summit in 2002, in response to the question, "What are the 10 most important considerations that must be faced in planning for Tulsa's future?":

Tulsa's unique qualities -- call them distinctives or idiosyncracies -- how can we raise awareness and pride locally and use this as an asset in our dealings with the rest of the world? I get the impression than some civic leaders are embarassed by our oil heritage, our Cowboy and Indian roots, and the strength of religious belief here -- so our tourist brochures trumpet the ballet and Philbrook and Utica Square, and downplay things like western swing music, the gun museum in Claremore, and ORU. When a German tourist comes to Oklahoma, he doesn't want to see the opera, he wants to see oil wells, tipis, old Route 66 motels, and tornadoes. Some adolescents go through a phase when their greatest longing is to be just like everyone else. If we're going to set ourselves apart, we have to stop trying to blend in as a modern city like every other, stop treating our quirky folkways as things to be suppressed and hidden, and celebrate them instead. It's nice to have the same cultural amenities as every other large city, but it's the unique qualities that will win the affections of our own people and capture the imaginations of the rest of the world.


Anon said:

Forget where I heard this yesterday (KFAQ?) but it made sense to me....

"I came to Oklahoma and the first thing which came to mind was 'Where are the Indians??!'... I want to see some Indians!"

When I moved to california as a child everyone wanted to know if I rode a horse to school. I'm 27 years old...

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 20, 2005 2:16 AM.

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