The Chickasaw Nation has been busy.
If you notice advertising at all in southern Oklahoma, then you've definitely seen or heard some form of ad for Chickasaw Country.
For those who might not have spent much time in southern Oklahoma, here's the jist of the situation — you live in the Chickasaw Nation, and there's a lot to do here.
As such, the Chickasaw Nation wants you to know it.
Historically, the Chickasaws have done a good job at individual attractions, according to director of tourism Paige Williams.
"We created new places and did a good job marketing them, but not necessarily with the overall brand," Williams says. "It all had an independent brand, and unless you knew it was a Chickasaw destination, then the public didn't know what all there was to offer.
"At the time, we had no effort in providing opportunity to see the marketing capabilities of the nation."
So five years ago, Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby created and developed a tourism department in the nation. The goal would be to take all that the Chickasaw Nation has to offer, and promote it as one multi-attraction destination.
"We wanted to share this with the communities, share it with the region and the world that southern Oklahoma is a great place to visit," Williams explains.
The first three years was mostly planning, constructing and developing the overall package. In March 2012, the nation launched its tourism brand in conjunction with a multi-county brand. Initially called "Arbuckle Country," the Chickasaws thought it more appropriate to name the tourism plan after the nation it encompassed.
Thus, Chickasaw Country was born.
During the past 22 months, Williams says the tourism department has been implementing its strategy with all Chickasaw destinations.
"It works in conjunction with facilities, creating overarching parent groups with the counties," Williams explains. "We will see more exposure regarding destinations."
Those destinations, too, are not limited to the gaming facilities and casinos, like some might think. Williams says they want to make Chickasaw Country a destination stop, where people will spend several days seeing the sights, participating in events and doing more than one thing while they stay. She hopes groups will tie together itineraries with multiple stops.
"You can visit Bedré and the cultural center in one day, stay at the Artesian and hike the Chickasaw National Recreation Area the next day," Williams foresees. "That's what we're going for.
"We are a destination that people need to experience."
The interest in Chickasaw Country is quickly spreading outside of southern Oklahoma. Parts of the U.S. are interested in visiting a place that has a rich Native American history built up around it. Williams says they pay close attention to what their niche market is, and try to promote Chickasaw Country to those locales in the country.
But even internationally, some countries have a huge interest in the Native American culture.
"The U.K., Germany, Ireland, any of German speaking Europe, they're very interested in Native Americans," Williams says.
Since the launch in 2011, Chickasaw Country social media has blown up as well, garnering more than 50,000 followers in various social media outlets. The tourism office also employs a blogger who attends events in Chickasaw Country to help promote it.
The Chickasaws are also working with touring groups now to help create destination-type vacations that tourism companies can promote.
"We've seen a great increase in our local consumer market, but we're still working with those touring groups to promote destination trips," Williams says. "It takes between 3 to 5 years to work with them and build those relationships and get advertised in their books."
But once there, Chickasaw Country will be advertised nationwide, broadening its marketing even further.
"We're still growing, and we're seeing some return already on the investment, but not the big numbers like we hope we'll see in the next few years," Williams predicts. "It's a process. Oklahoma isn't really one of the Top 10 states you normally think about when you want to travel somewhere.
"But we offer a high quality, personal experience that allows someone to feel the cultural experience in Chickasaw Country. We don't have Disney World in our backyard to help us, no Grand Canyon, but we do have a great experience product now that people can come and enjoy."