Long-time Enid tourist board refocuses mission after changes | Progress


Visit Enid manager Rob Houston stands in front of a Chisholm Trail land picket at the Enid Visitor Center office.

ENID, Okla. – The Enid Tourism and Visitors Bureau enters its busy season of regularly promoted events after years of reduced efforts.

And with a new leader behind the wheel and a better controlled global pandemic, Visit EnidThe mission to share the city’s attractions and events has also changed course.

New manager Rob Houston said him and his teamin line with a recent national trend, focus more on promoting Enid to its residents than out-of-town visitors.

“You, as a resident of the city, want to know what’s going on, so when you’re off the clock, you can go have fun,” Houston said.

Most of the events promoted by Visit Enid take place between the week after Spring Break and October, he said, including the recent Red Brick Road Food Truck and Art Festival, and the upcoming 30th Corvette Expo, Kites over Enid and the Smokin’ Red Dirt BBQ Contest. .

Houston said Memorial Day weekend was Enid’s biggest weekend for hotel occupancy.

The paradigm shift in tourism, he said, began several years before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

But “staycations” have become popular during COVID, Houston said. Then, once places started to reopen again, he said the tourist sentiment across the country was, “We might want to go, but we’re going to stay close,” or no more than 90 miles away.

“What we’ve found is that a lot of Oklahomans have rediscovered places like Enid — small communities that have a lot to offer,” he said. “They spend their money and leave it here when they get home, and that’s what we like.”

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going through changes

Enid’s Convention and Visitors Bureau previously reported to the Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce before Visit Enid opened in the fall of 2010.

A year and a half prior, former Enid City Manager Eric Benson also removed Enid Regional Development Alliance from the chamber, giving the office its 501(c)(6) nonprofit status.

Visit Enid has not acquired 501 status but falls under the purview of the events center management company, Spectra, with additional annual operating funds from the City of Enid.

Houston and former director Marcy Jarrett were both with Visit Enid from the start. Jarrett handled sales and bookings for the office, while Houston handled communications.

Future colleague Jenna Spencer, who first managed the Enid Welcome Center gift shop, also worked closely with Jarrett in sales.

Houston said he and his staff redefined office roles after Jarrett left last May for a job in Midwest City. Houston was promoted to her position.

“(Management) basically said, ‘Why not? It’s easy. We don’t have to interview anyone,” he said with a laugh.

Houston said he didn’t think his and Spencer’s job needed to change, so he retained his communications duties while Spencer took over full-time sales management.

Visit Enid also plans to hire a new service manager to manage operations at the visitor center, 201 W. Garriott, Houston. The new director would take on some social media duties, while Houston handles preparing annual budget proposals and running the office.

“It will take a ton off both of our plates,” he said. “Our third person is really going to help us a lot by allowing us to move forward even more.”

Spencer said she would continue focus primarily on group sales — organized trips of about fifty people, often elderly people, who take chartered buses to go to a city for a day or two.

Group tours have largely come to a halt during the pandemic, Spencer said. Some were scheduled last year, during virus variant seasons, but she said people would not show up.

“Group tours have been discontinued for the past two years due to COVID,” she said. “But hopefully we’ll get through this.”

Houston said Visit Enid had not heard from any group tour operators since COVID until two weeks ago, when an Oklahoma City organizer asked the office to set up a familiarization tour, or “fam”, for tour operators.

They are mainly interested in Christmas holiday activities, he said, and Visit Enid is now preparing for The One Christmas event which will return for a second year this autumn.

Visit Enid 2 AE

The painted bison named “Prairie Thunder” can be found at the entrance to the Enid Visitor Center office and gift shop.

spread the word

Spencer also runs these packages for business conferences and gatherings at Stride Bank Center and around Enid. These also largely slowed during COVID, she said, but some conferences had booked up to three years in advance.

Visit Enid often depends on the event organizer to let them know what’s going on, and Houston and Spencer are also anticipating regular Enid events, such as the upcoming Corvette Expo, which has been held at the Chisholm Trail Expo Center for 30 years.

As soon as Houston hears about an event – at least a date and location – he adds it to Visit Enid’s online calendar.

The calendar is available to the general public, and a newsletter with the week’s events and the quarterly Visit Enid calendar is sent to subscribers every Monday.

Visit Enid also provides a free travel guide available around the city and state at Travel Information Centres.

“You get it to us early enough, your event is there,” Houston said.

Visit Enid has a budget for all types of advertising in Oklahoma Today and travel, dining and outdoor guides. The office purchases social media advertising, including mass email marketing plans, Google searches, popups, etc., from a company in Edmond.

Houston appears on two local radio shows every Friday to update listeners on upcoming events next week.

Visit Enid has paid zero dollars in video expenses for the past two or three years, as the office films TV commercials with the City of Enid Communications Department, whose office is located next door.

Over the past month, Houston and City of Enid communications staff have filmed their long-running series of “Things to do in Enid” social media videos in front of artwork around the city.

After seeing Houston’s video in front of Enid’s giant downtown butterfly murala group from Sulfur decided to travel three hours to Enid the next day to see the mural, Houston said.

This group likely then decided to eat something, shop in downtown stores and buy gas for their drive south, he said.

“They’re going to come see a concert at Stride Bank Center, they’re going to come see a baseball game at David Allen (Memorial Ballpark)… they’re going to come see the Christmas tree,” he said. “But while they’re here they’re going to be doing a lot of other things.”

What Houston said he and his staff really sell is Enid’s quality of life, saying the city’s residents are his No. 1 asset, as he’s heard from many Airmen on base. Vance airliners returning to Enid after retirement.

“It all starts with a visit,” Houston said.


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