Tourism in Arkansas Has Never Been Stronger
LITTLE ROCK – The Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism publishes a report every year on the health of the state’s tourism industry.
According to the most recent statistics available, tourism in Arkansas has never been stronger.
Last year more than 48 million people visited Arkansas, an increase of seven million over the previous year. The money they spent, and the jobs they supported, continue to make tourism one of the pillars of the Arkansas economy. Tourism in the state is a $9.2 billion industry.
Last year set a record in collections of the 2 percent Tourism Reinvestment Tax. It is collected at hotels, marinas, theme parks and retailers that sell tourism-related items. The revenue pays for marketing and promotion of the state’s destinations.
Last year the tax generated $24.3 million, which was 16 percent greater than in 2021 and greater than the collections in our best pre-pandemic years.
According to the secretary of the tourism agency, more than 68,000 jobs in Arkansas are related to the tourism industry. That is a 6.2 percent increase over 2021.
Visitors spent $9.2 billion. The largest category was for transportation, which accounted for 31 percent of the total. Next was spending on food and beverages, which accounted for 27 percent of the total. Lodging accounted for 17 percent, recreation and entertainment for 13 percent and retail purchases for 11 percent.
The department has placed a renewed emphasis on promoting Arkansas as a destination for outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, climbing, cycling, bird watching and boating.
According to the secretary, Arkansas has entered new advertising markets. Traditionally Arkansas promotes its tourist destinations in media outlets in nearby urban areas such as Dallas, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Saint Louis, Kansas City and Chicago.
Advertising is placed in a diverse array of media in order to focus on families, motorcycle clubs, bus excursions, history enthusiasts and people researching their genealogy.
While Arkansas has long been popular as a destination for outdoor recreation, we can now promote cultural activities like fine dining, music festivals and art galleries.
The hospitality industry is already preparing for April 8, 2024, when a total eclipse of the sun will darken the sky along a path from southwest to northeast. The most impressive place to experience the eclipse is along the so-called “path of totality.” Hot Springs, Little Rock and Jonesboro are in that path. So are Russellville, Morrilton, Heber Springs, Fairfield Bay, Mountain Home, Flippin, Searcy, Arkadelphia, Texarkana, Malvern and Conway.
All of Interstate 30, from Texarkana to Little Rock, is within the path of the total solar eclipse.
The eclipse begins at about 12:30 and totality begins at 1:46 p.m. and ends at 1:59 p.m. Most locations in Arkansas will experience the total eclipse for two or three minutes.
Times and durations will vary, even within the same city, depending on how far away you are from the center line of the path of the eclipse.
Even though the eclipse will not occur for another five months, it’s possible to buy posters, T-shirts, coffee mugs, throw pillows and other souvenirs with eclipse themes.