Historic Dyess Colony Project Expects to Bring Tourists, Revenue

by Lee Hogan  on Friday, May. 2, 2014 1:58 pm  

A few restoration projects in Dyess are expected to increase the flow of tourists and revenue to the eastern Arkansas town and surrounding areas.

The restoration of the Dyess Administration Building and the Johnny Cash boyhood home are part of a broader Historic Dyess Colony: Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash project, led by the Arkansas Heritage Sites at Arkansas State University. Project leaders hope the restoration, and inclusion into the Arkansas Heritage Sites, will incite investment and increase revenue in the area.

"Our heritage sites are catalysts for bringing businesses back into dying downtown areas and developing new tourism-related businesses," Ruth Hawkins, director of Arkansas Heritage Sites, said in a news release. 

Hawkins said the true economic value of a site is not the money it gains from admissions and gift shop sales, but in how many tourists it brings to the area to spend money on food, lodging and other retail purchases.

A feasibility study by Arkansas Heritage Sites forecasts the Cash boyhood home should bring 50,000 visitors every year that spend about $10 million in the region and create more than 100 tourism-related jobs.

Those numbers were drawn by looking at visitor statistics for the Elvis Presley Boyhood Home in Tupelo, Miss., and the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Miss., among other tourism sites in the region.

"This very well may be a true 'build it and they will come' situation," Richard Davies, executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, said in the release. "The proximity to the other music-related attractions in that area of the Delta will help all of them, and also help Dyess."

Other locations around the state have benefitted from their inclusion in Arkansas Heritage Sites. Clay County, home to the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum in Piggott since 1999, has seen a 74.7 percent increase in state tax revenues from travel and tourism expenditures. Poinsett County, home to the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, saw a 42.6 percent increase in travel and tourism revenue.

"I think it's going to do a lot for the whole county," Dyess Mayor Larry Sims said in the release. "People from all over the world will be coming to see Dyess and it's going to make quite a difference for our area."

Paula Miles, assistant director of the Arkansas Heritage Sites, says numerous group travel inquiries for the area have already been fielded. Tracy Morales, group travel manager for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, says itineraries are already being built to connect Arkansas Heritage Sites throughout the Delta, in addition to Graceland, the Elvis Presley home in Memphis.

"With Johnny Cash and the Historic Dyess Colony, this may be the attraction that opens up Arkansas to tour operators like never before," Morales said in the release.

The Cash boyhood home is set to open to the public Aug. 16.



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