Arkansas’ tourism sector posts early 2017 dips compared to robust 2016 numbers

by Michael Tilley (mtilley@talkbusiness.net) 203 views 

Tourism jobs and collections of the state’s 2% tourism tax are down in the first two months of 2017, with hospitality tax collections among 17 cities posting a gain, according to the Arkansas Tourism Ticker.

However, the early 2017 numbers are up against big gains in 2016 that built upon similar growth in 2015.

Arkansas’ tourism industry posted broad gains in employment and revenue during 2016, with the annual numbers up against tough comparisons with robust growth in 2015. The 2016 Arkansas Tourism Ticker report shows a 4% gain in hospitality tax revenue among 17 Arkansas cities reviewed for the report, a 4.36% increase in collections of the state’s 2% tourism tax, and a 1.58% increase in Arkansas tourism industry jobs compared to 2015.

Montine McNulty, executive director of the Arkansas Hospitality Association, said the industry continues to do well, but understands that “keeping up with the record pace of recent years will be tough.” However, she is confident that with good weather, the numbers could improve in the summer vacation season.

In 2015, the report showed a 7.41% increase in hospitality tax revenue among the 17 Arkansas cities, an 8.31% increase in collections of the state’s 2% tourism tax, and a 5.04% increase in Arkansas tourism industry jobs compared to 2014.

The Arkansas Tourism Ticker is managed by Talk Business & Politics, and sponsored by the Arkansas Hospitality Association. The ticker uses the following three measurements to review the health of the state’s tourism industry.
• Hospitality tax collections – prepared food tax and lodging tax – of 17 Arkansas cities (cities listed below along with collections for each city);
• Tourism sector employment numbers as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; and
• Collections of Arkansas’ 2% statewide tourism tax.

Results for the 2017 January-February ticker report are:
• 1.16% increase
Hospitality tax revenue in the two-month period among 17 Arkansas cities reviewed for the Arkansas Tourism Ticker

• 3.3% decrease
Collections of Arkansas’ 2% statewide tourism tax in January-February 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.

• 0.77% decrease
Decrease in Arkansas’ tourism industry jobs in January-February 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.

Of the 17 cities surveyed for the Arkansas Tourism Ticker, five posted hospitality tax collection declines to begin the year (El Dorado, down 22.7%; Eureka Springs, down 3.8%; Jonesboro, down 1.4%; North Little Rock, down 1.2%; and Springdale, down 10.6%). Of the 12 cities with gains, the range was a 15.1% gain in Van Buren and a 0.6%% gain in Little Rock.

Also, the state’s tourism tax revenue totaled $1.89 million in the first two months of 2017, down 3.3% compared to the same period in 2016. Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax generated $15.461 million in 2016, up 4.36% over the $14.815 million in 2015. Collections of Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax hit a monthly record of $1.656 million in July 2015.

Link here for the PDF report of the Arkansas Tourism Ticker.
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Editor’s note: Kathy Reed with Talk Business & Politics contributed to this report.

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