Arkansas Tourism Bouncing Back; Revenue Up 2.3 %

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Mar. 7, 2011 12:00 am  

The tourism industry in Arkansas is slowly recovering.

Revenue from Arkansas' 2 percent sales tax on tourism-related services, such as lodging, marina rentals and admission fees to tourism attractions, was up 2.3 percent in 2010 compared with 2009, according to the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism.

(Click here for a PDF listing the state's top hotels, ranked by 2010 revenue Click here for a spreadsheet version.)

"We're seeing business coming back," said Joe David Rice, tourism director for the Parks & Tourism Department.

He said the last half of 2010 was strong, which made up for the "pretty miserable" first half of the year. Convention business and the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico helped boost Arkansas' tourism numbers.
Still, last year's revenue of $11.7 million from the tourism tax was off from the high of $11.86 million in 2008. The tourism-tax revenue supports the Arkansas Department of Tourism's annual $16 million budget, Rice said. The balance comes from general state revenue.

Consumer confidence was low in 2009, helping keep people at home through the first half of 2010, Rice said. But during the second half of the year, tourism-tax revenue started to climb, he said.

Rice expects the revenue growth to continue through this year, thanks to some new attractions in Arkansas, such as the Ozark Medieval Fortress, a castle being built in Boone County using 13th century construction methods, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, set to open Nov. 11.

Rice said the Department of Parks & Tourism would promote the museum. "We figure that's going to entice some people to Arkansas that have never, ever had us in their mindsets," he said. "This will be the place to come see what happens to be the best, single largest collection of American art in one location."


Gas Prices a Factor

Climbing gas prices, however, could be a double-edged sword for the rebounding tourism industry. 

The U.S. Department of Energy said there's a 35 percent chance of seeing $3.50-per-gallon gas during the summer and a 10 percent chance of $4 per gallon, said Mike Right, a spokesman for AAA auto club.



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