Arkansas saw a record number of visitors in 2021 as the tourism industry's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic continued, according to the state Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism's annual economic impact report.
More than 41.3 million people visited the state, a 41.4% increase from 2020 and up 13.8% from 2019. Visitor spending last year totaled about $8 billion, 33% higher than 2020 and on par with 2019.
National Park visitation in Arkansas jumped 23% above its 2019 pre-pandemic level to just under four million visits, while hunting and fishing licenses issued to non-residents more than doubled the tally in 2019.
"These numbers illustrate that Arkansas is in the midst of a public perception turning point when it comes to our national profile as a tourist destination," Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst said in the report.
The tourism industry accounted for about $1.1 billion in total tax collections last year, with more than $653 million collected at the state and local level.
Spending grew across all sectors, driven by both pent-up demand as well as price increases for lodging and transportation, the department reported. The average hotel room rate at hotels in the state increased 13% last year.
The department reported strong job recovery in key tourism industries, reaching 98% of pre-pandemic numbers in the restaurant industry, 96% in recreational businesses and 89% in lodging.