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Cherokee Nation Promotes Tourism

The Evolution Of A Cultural Tourism Program: Cherokee Nation


Focus Is On The Theme: “The Cherokee People Have Faced Centuries Of Adversity 
With Resilience To Prosper And Excel, And Today Maintain A Distinctive Cultural Identity”


“Osiyo” – The Traditional Cherokee Greeting – Sets The Tone For The Branding And 
Advertising Campaign Recently Launched In Support Of The Cultural Tourism Program

TAHLEQUAH, Okla., --- Striking a unique balance between historical reality and cultural integrity, Cherokee Nation set out to create a cultural tourism program with authentic perspective and experiences. The Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Department launched its quest in 2007 by conducting an extensive research study that resulted in the completion of a strategic concept plan in May 2008. The strategic concept plan led to the formal introduction of the Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism program in January 2009.

The foundation of the program rests in its cultural, historical, natural and recreational resources of the Cherokee Nation, which includes the 14-county area located in northeastern Oklahoma that spans 7,000-square miles. The Cherokee Nation is home to more than 149,000 Cherokee citizens.

Six Strategic Development Components
Resources + Marketing + Economic Development + Community + Interpretation + Site Planning

The study identified six strategic development components with their respective elements that are the building blocks of the cultural tourism program to include: 

1. Resources: historic, cultural, recreational and natural; 

2. Marketing: analyzing and understanding marketing demographics, aligning programming with markets, branding and advertising; 

3. Economic Development: financial analysis and economic development; 

4. Community: stakeholders, partners and staff; 

5. Interpretation: identities, stories, education, exhibits, and programming; and 

6. Site Planning: aligning resources, programming, interpretation and infrastructure.

The study theorized that when the six cultural tourism components are developed together a synergy grows that can transform the individual resources into a new and cohesive whole. A successful cultural tourism program requires maintaining a delicate balance between resource management, storytelling, partnerships and community collaboration, site planning, marketing, and economic development needs. Strategic planning and implementation is the key to a successful program.

Resources identified for the cultural tourism program range from visible and tangible sites, buildings, and cultural events and festivals; to ecological and recreational resources; to less tangible resources, such as hidden stories, archaeological sites, and sacred and cultural significant places known only to a few. 

Taking into consideration the six strategic development components, the Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism program recently debuted four all-new historically authentic tours including the Cherokee History Tour, Cherokee Old Settler Tour, Civil War History Tour and Will Rogers History Tour with online booking functionality through its web site at

“The locations and events are tremendous sources of pride to the Cherokee people but until now there has been little, if any, effort to create a cohesive program that presents the stories and places of the Cherokee Nation in a compelling, educating and respectful way,” says David Stewart, CEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment, which manages the Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Department. “The strategic plan has assisted us in identifying the program’s strengths and weaknesses and provided a blueprint in establishing a cultural tourism program Cherokee Nation can be proud of and that visitors will draw wisdom and inspiration from through their experience with the Cherokee Nation story.”

To support the Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism program a new branding and advertising campaign was introduced in June with “Osiyo” (hello) as the main message point, which then focuses on the unique elements of the Cherokee culture with the slogan: “Cherokees Say Hello Like No One Else.” A strategy to focus on cultural references, specific achievements and overcoming misperceptions are creative elements featured in the headlines: “If You Come Expecting Smoke Signals, Prepare To Be Surprised,” which refers to the printing of the first bilingual newspaper in 1882; “If You Come Expecting Teepees, Prepare To Be Surprised” that refers to Cherokee Nation establishing the first institute for higher learning for women west of the Mississippi; “Now, Planning A Cherokee Tour Is As Easy As A-B-C,” which refers to Sequoyah creating the first written Native American language and the first written language created by someone not literate in another language; and, of course, “Meet The Man Who Never Met A Man He Didn’t Like” for Oklahoma’s favorite son and Cherokee native Will Rogers. 

The spirit of the campaign captures the heart of the program with the consumer call to action: “Osiyo is the traditional Cherokee greeting. Come say ‘hello’ and plan your tour at or (877) 779-6977.” The advertising campaign is currently running on television, radio, online, outdoor and transit. In addition, collateral and signage is being distributed to supplement the branding efforts.

“The all-new cultural tourism program is a multi-faceted undertaking that encompasses the best of the Cherokee Nation people and its rich history and diverse communities,” adds Stewart

Saint Paul, Minn.-based 106 Group, a cultural resources management, planning and interpretation agency conducted the research study and development of the strategic concept plan.

About Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Department
The Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Department was created in 2007 to promote the story of the Cherokee people. Efforts by the Cherokee Nation include developing guided community and educational tours, creating tourism partnerships and programs throughout northeastern Oklahoma, and launching a new Cherokee tourism-specific web site. For more information, please visit
About Cherokee Nation Entertainment
Cherokee Nation Entertainment is the gaming and hospitality arm of the Cherokee Nation. Cherokee Nation Entertainment owns and operates the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, five Cherokee Casinos, Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs, three hotels, two golf courses and many other retail operations in northeastern Oklahoma. For more information, please visit
About Cherokee Nation
The Cherokee Nation is the sovereign operating government of the Cherokee people.  It is a federally recognized tribe of more than 280,000 Cherokee citizens, with its capitol located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Employing more than 6,500 people, Cherokee Nation’s annual economic impact in Oklahoma and surrounding areas is more than $1 billion dollars. To learn more, please visit


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