Parks & Tourism Keeps Marketing Business In-state

by Mark Hengel  on Monday, Mar. 30, 2009 12:00 am  

In mid-March, an interesting gathering took place in Fort Smith.

Gov. Mike Beebe hosted the 35th Annual Arkansas Governors Conference on Tourism in the city. The conference covers a lot of ground, but a major component is the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism's discussion of its tourism-marketing plan for the coming year.

The department's executive director, Richard Davies, reported that the state's 2 percent tourism tax brought in 5.3 percent more revenue in fiscal 2008 (which ended June 30) than the previous year. The tax collected about $11.8 million in fiscal 2008.

The department projects that the tourism tax revenue will grow by about only 3 percent in the current fiscal year. Earlier projections had estimated the tax's proceeds would grow by 6 percent in fiscal 2009. The change in projection will cause the department to roll back its budget accordingly, Davies said, but media buys will not be part of the cuts.

Arkansas' tourism budget hasn't been affected as much as many other states', Davies said. And with other states cutting back, there is an opportunity for Arkansas to make some headway, he said, with the goal being to lure more of the 40 million people who live within 400 miles of the state.

"Here we are in these tough economic times, and we're cheap and we're close," he said.

CJRW of Little Rock, which holds the account, determines how the bulk of the tourism advertising budget is spent. CJRW is handling $9.7 million for fiscal 2009. Aristotle Inc. of Little Rock is managing about $825,000 for the department's Internet advertising budget. The department's philosophy is to use traditional advertising to push people to

"All the ads push viewers to the Web site because the theory is traditional media will get you in the mood and the Web site will get you to spend money," Davies said.

Only about 15 percent of the ad placement budget goes to Arkansas media companies, Davies said.

"Our primary goal is to bring new money in, but you don't want to forget about 30 percent of your market," Davies said, referring to Arkansans who vacation in the state.

Where It's Going
For fiscal 2009, the department is spending about $965,000 of its tourism budget with in-state media outfits. The state's broadcasters and press associations get the largest chunks for bulk media buys that will be spread across their memberships. The Television Broadcasters Association got $80,000 for the fiscal year, the Arkansas Press Association got about $125,000, and about $380,000 is going to participating radio stations as part of the "See Arkansas First" promotion.

Individual companies getting a large share of the pie are:



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