Communities across the state show mixed results in their ability to cross-promote other attractions and destinations in their area, according to a report presented at the August meeting of the State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission Thursday.
The report is part of the “Welcome to Arkansas” program, a training initiative to help communities better serve visitors to the state by educating them on things to see and do in particular regions.
From June 30 – July 2, 43 locations in 20 communities around the state were secret shopped. The report states, “Throughout our travels, we observed a variety of efforts being put in place to market the state of Arkansas, some more impactful than others.”
“Of the 43 locations shopped, 18 places were ranked ‘above average’ or ‘excellent,'” the report continued. “These locations were set apart by the employees’ abilities to promote their community and their outstanding customer service efforts. Employees at these locations did not only offer reference materials, but took the time to read through travel guides and brochures with the shoppers and emphasize specific details of the materials. The Harrison Welcome Center was especially impressive, as the employees there greeted the shoppers warmly, and then were able to enthusiastically highlight numerous activities and restaurants in the immediate area.”
Other areas did not fare as well, when employees reported to secret shoppers, “There’s nothing to do here.” On the whole, welcome centers, chambers, state parks and cultural centers tended to have adequately-trained and friendly staff. Some private businesses in particularly rural areas struggled with customer service, the report noted.
The report concluded that shoppers “returned a majority of positive results, with many of the business employees able to adequately promote their community; however, there is room for growth and great potential for employees to propel tourism in their communities.”
The results of the secret shopping have been shared with the locations shopped, according to Kristine Puckett, Tourism Development Consultant with the Department of Parks and Tourism, who presented the report to the commission. Many have already made some necessary adjustments, she said.