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  • Kenton Tsoodle

Oklahoma tourism brings economic development returns

It makes sense to look at our state’s tourism and recreation business through the lens of economic development. After all, in 2019, travel spending in Oklahoma was $9.7 billion, according to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. That makes it one of the highest-grossing industries in our state.

It also makes sense to take note when best and brightest are advocates for the industry. Congratulations to our Alliance project manager Elizabeth Larios on her recent confirmation to the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Commission. She will join the nine-member group to work with the secretary of tourism and branding to guide directives and assist the department in reaching their goals.

Elizabeth’s passion for culture, events and recreation across Oklahoma, combined with her unique background, make her an excellent addition to the commission. She travels the state, attending cultural and heritage events and celebrations, exploring state parks and natural assets, and appreciating revitalized commercial districts. She celebrates places like Guymon and Ardmore with large Hispanic populations where a job opportunity that moves a family to the community results in a small business started by another family member. Here, you’ll find renewed shop fronts and revitalized downtowns dotted with new, small businesses and rich Hispanic culture. Elizabeth recognizes that communities with strong cultural roots are ripe for tourism destinations.

In Oklahoma City, Elizabeth has led the planning for the La29 District’s Annual Dia Del Nino Festival coming up from noon to 5 p.m. June 12. On SW 29th between Western and Shartel, attendees will find artistic performances and live music, cultural and educational exhibits, food trucks and more.

In addition to being an advocate for diversity within our state’s travel and tourism industry, her work with the Alliance and other organizations gives her a strong vision for how to continue to support and increase the economic development returns for our tourism industry. Our tourism industry includes large assets such as museums, zoos, entertainment venues, casinos, hotels, state parks, lakes and recreational facilities. It also includes thousands of small shops, restaurants, agritourism operators and other businesses that support tourism and recreation. Elizabeth’s professional experience helping small businesses access tools, financing and resources for growth will translate into a valuable understanding of how every component of tourism and recreation should work together to bring greater benefit to the local community.


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