‘Welcome to Arkansas’ program aimed at keeping visitors in state longer

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 197 views 

story info submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

Customer service is vital to gaining and retaining clients. This is especially true in the tourism industry.

The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism recognized this and partnered with the Arkansas Hospitality Association (AHA) to help communities improve customer service from frontline employees. The goal of the program is to increase visitors’ satisfaction during an Arkansas vacation and encourage them to stay longer.

Fort Smith area cities and organizations involved in the program are the city of Charleston, Fort Smith Advertising & Promotion Commission, Mena-Polk County Chamber of Commerce, Paris Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Van Buren Advertising and Promotion Commission.

Welcome to Arkansas is a grass-roots project targeted at people who work in businesses that have face-to-face contact with tourists, according to Joe David Rice, Arkansas tourism director. Lodging properties, attractions, restaurants, convenience stores and chambers of commerce are the most obvious.

“By arming frontline personnel with messages and information about their region and state, communities can encourage guests to spend more time and money in their area,” Rice said in a statement. “Our research indicated that when visitors asked a hotel clerk, ‘What’s there to do around here?’ many times the clerk would answer, ‘Not much.’ However, with information about things to see and do in their vicinity, frontline employees will be able to confidently and enthusiastically educate visitors and encourage them to stay longer. Every community – no matter how small – has points of interest.”

The program has 56 towns involved. Every community in Arkansas is eligible to participate, but it’s strictly voluntary. The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism provides free customized supporting materials and customer service training for each locale.

Participating towns receive Welcome to Arkansas lapel buttons for personnel to wear, along with information cards that list area attractions and window stickers that identify the business as a program partner. A video on Arkansas is also provided to share with area stores and attractions.

Scott Sudduth of AHA serves as Welcome to Arkansas coordinator. He travels the state presenting programs to interested communities and organizations and encouraging them to get involved.

“We want people who participate to give friendly customer service to our guests,” Sudduth said. “We encourage them to go that extra step in providing outstanding hospitality. In doing so, we hope tourists will stay longer in our state, which leads to spending more money. That’s good for the local economy and Arkansas. So Welcome to Arkansas is a win-win situation.”

For more information about Welcome to Arkansas, contact Sudduth at (501) 376-2323  or [email protected]