Thursday, Aug 7, 2014
Arkansas Tourism Industry Continues Steady Growth
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LITTLE ROCK - The Arkansas tourism economy grew by 3.35 percent last year and the number of visitors to the state increased from about 22 million to 23 million, according to the state Parks and Tourism Department.
Those visitors spent more than $5.9 billion in Arkansas, proving yet again how important tourism is to the state's economy. The previous year's travel expenditures were $5.7 billion.
About 100,000 Arkansas residents work in the leisure and hospitality industries, and the popularity of Arkansas tourism helps keep those jobs secure.
The Parks and Tourism Department markets Arkansas as a tourism destination with revenue from the state's 2 percent tourism tax, which is collected on hotels and lodging, marinas, campground rentals and attractions. Last year the tourism tax generated the highest amount since it was enacted in 1989.
The growth in Arkansas tourism is encouraging when compared to national trends. Over the past several years, tourism spending has been stagnant nationwide but in Arkansas it has grown steadily, if not dramatically. Last year was typical in that nationwide growth in tourism spending was about 2.2 percent, compared to about 3.3 percent in Arkansas.
People in Arkansas account for a significant share of the total travel expenditures in the state, according to market research. About 28 percent of overnight leisure trips in Arkansas are by state residents, and the rest are visitors from other states.
Most of our visitors come from Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee according to surveys by the tourism division, which keeps track of the origins of out-of-state visitors.
The division also tracks the urban areas from which the highest percentage of visitors come, and those are Dallas, Memphis, Shreveport, Tulsa, Springfield, Houston and Chicago.
Of the total of about 23 million overnight trips made in Arkansas by visitors, about 1.9 million were business travelers. Of the recreational travelers, the average family consisted of three children for each adult.
Marketing campaigns include television, radio, print media and social media. The tourism division constantly upgrades its web site because research has proven that more than ever people use the Internet to plan their vacations.
Many years ago, promotions of Arkansas tourism emphasized the state's natural beauty, and advertising campaigns relied heavily on the multitude of outdoor activities in our state, such as boating, hunting and fishing.
Several years ago the emphasis on outdoor activities was scaled back slightly, in order to include other activities that appeal more to women and younger travelers. They include cultural attractions such as art galleries and fine dining, retail shopping, relaxing at a spa or learning about our historical heritage.
Recent ad campaigns have mentioned outdoor activities available in Arkansas that have not always been considered traditional, such as hang gliding and bird watching.
Some of this year's advertising has a new twist - highlighting specific areas rather than the entire state. For example, an ad may promote barbecue and blues in the Delta while another highlights canoeing and waterfalls in the mountains. One goal is to simplify the task of planning a vacation.
Even more specific niche marketing targets motorcycling or bicycling enthusiasts, wedding planners and "girlfriend getaways."