Tourism in Oklahoma is set to get a big boost, thanks to landmark legislation passed this year under the guidance of Senator Jeff Rabon, D-Hugo and Randall Erwin, D- Nashoba.
The booming trend in tourism is evident in recent statistics. In 1998 alone, domestic travel spending in Oklahoma topped $3.6 billion, bypassing 1997 by almost 4 percent. That extra spending generated 67,000 jobs in 1998 and those employees earned more than $1.3 billion in wages and salary.
"Even though those numbers are impressive and indicate Oklahoma has a healthy and thriving tourism industry, I believe there is still a tremendous amount of potential in Oklahoma's tourism and recreation that remains untapped," said Senator Rabon. "That's why I carried this bill that would give income tax credits to certain tourism facilities in Oklahoma."
Under SB 3, also referred to as the Oklahoma Tourism Development Act, credit would be extended to new and existing facilities utilizing tax credits. Upon entering an approved tourism project agreement, the company shall be entitled to a credit if it has expended at least $500,000 in approved costs and they are in compliance with the Tourism Development Act. The Oklahoma Tax Commission shall then issue an income tax credit memorandum to the approved company, granting a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the approved costs. Subsequent requests for credit for additional certified approved costs in excess of $500,000 and less than $1 million shall result in a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the approved costs.
Companies with agreements including costs in excess of $1 million shall be granted a tax credit equal to 25 percent, contingent on company compliance with the program.
Facilities that could be eligible under the legislation would include cultural or historical sites, recreational or entertainment facilities, theme parks, amusement parks, indoor or outdoor play or music show, cultural or educational centers, botanical gardens and areas of natural phenomenon or scenic beauty.
"This legislation will give Oklahoma businesses a great tool to boost tourism revenue in the state," said Rabon. "It will be an effective recruitment tool in drawing visitors to Oklahoma and in turn, stimulate the economy statewide."
The project is aimed to attract at least 25 percent of its visitors from out of state, and is expected to have a significant and positive economic impact on Oklahoma.
"This is a terrific way to maximize the tourism dollars in the state," said Representative Erwin. "By packing more punch into the power of the dollar, the tourism industry is in place to reap the benefits."