State tourism rebounding after terrorist attacks

Friday, September 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Tourism at Oklahoma's 51 state parks and six resorts has almost returned to normal after a sharp decline following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, officials said Thursday.

Jane Jayroe, executive director of the state Tourism and Recreation Department, said the department lost about $50,000 the weekend after the attacks because of reservation cancellations.

The money loss was due to the Tourism Department's relaxation of its no-cancellation policy the weekend of Sept. 14-16, Jayroe said. Normally, people canceling within five days of their reservations lose their deposit.

``We thought it was the right thing to do,'' Jayroe said.

The normal cancellation policy is now in effect, she said.

In southeastern Oklahoma, Beavers Bend State Park is enjoying its normal throng of visitors.

``They consider October to be their second season down there,'' Jayroe said. ``The fall foliage should really be beautiful this year.''

Attendance at the 51 state parks was 15,124,642 in the year ending June 30, down from the 16,147,807 visits the year before.

Jayroe said the weather was the biggest factor in the decline. The state was mired in a drought during the summer of 2000, while fall brought flooding.

Then, winter ice storms pummeled the southern half of the state, prompting more than $122 million in relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state Department of Civil Emergency Management and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

For July and August, state park visitorship statewide is down about 9.5 percent over the same period last year. Attendance is down in all four areas of the state over last year, but is most noticeable in the northeast, with a decrease of 24 percent, figures show.