Bentonville: Museum's Influence A Work Of Art, Design (Tourism | Winner 20,000+)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 12:00 am  

For decades, the city of Bentonville was a magnet for business executives. They trekked to the northwest Arkansas city to conduct business at the headquarters of one of the world’s largest companies based on revenue — Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

But then a new wave of visitors flocked to the city starting in November 2011 thanks to the opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Founded by Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, Crystal Bridges is considered to have one of the most impressive collections of American artwork in the world. The 201,000-SF museum took years to complete and cost more than $150 million. It sits on 120 wooded acres in the middle of the city.

The Bentonville Convention & Visitor’s Bureau responded to the museum opening by beefing up its advertising domestically and internationally to make it as easy as possible for visitors to come to Bentonville.

Its efforts have received rave reviews for the city. Bentonville was named one of Leisure & Travel magazine’s Hottest Travel Destinations of 2012. It’s the current Arkansas Business City of Distinction award winner for tourism development in 2012.

“Business travel now combined with leisure travel has put Bentonville on the map as a cultural destination and a place to do business,” said Shelli Kerr, planning services manager for Bentonville’s Community Development.

To prepare for the visitors, the CVB improved its website and targeted all areas of social media, Kerr said.

“The new website launched in 2011 is much more interactive, helping both CVB staff and visitors find the information they need,” Kerr said. “It also includes a trip planning feature.”

In the spring of 2012, the CVB unveiled its iPhone app that offers users information about restaurants, accommodations and things to do in Bentonville.

The CVB also has been working on other projects to help visitors. In 2008, it started a citywide signage program. It paid $110,000 to Merje Environments & Experience of West Chester, Pa., to create 21 different types of signs.

So far, approximately 250 signs have been bought and installed around the city at a cost of $700,000, Kerr said.

The project “has been a significant advantage to visitors,” she said. “It provides easily recognizable directions to local attractions and identifies such attractions and public parking facilities.”

The signage program presents Bentonville as an organized, efficient community that cares about its visitors, Kerr said.



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