Arkansas tourism numbers continue decline

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 53 views 

Arkansas tourism is clicking at a slightly slower pace in the first half of 2010, but state officials are confident their product and message is not the problem.

"We don’t think the problem is our advertising message or its placement. Nor is it our product," Joe David Rice, Arkansas’ tourism director, said in a recent report from "In a word, it’s the economy. Not only is the country suffering from high and chronic unemployment, the American psyche is damaged. Folks are cautious and therefore reluctant to spend money. The travel industry has been hit hard by this situation."

Tourism tax collections, which help gauge the strength of visitors to the Natural State, are down 2.9% year-to-date compared to one year ago. Through May 2010, tourism taxes stood at $4.41 million. One year ago, those tax collections were $4.53 million.

"While we’re not happy with these figures, we realize they could be far worse. In fact, most of my colleagues across the country are scrambling to save positions, maintain campaigns, and keep their welcome centers open," Rice said.

Rice says while the tax collection numbers aren’t in yet, Arkansas has seen "encouraging signs" in the summer months, particularly July.  Arkansas’ sister states are a mixed bag, he added.

Texas and Missouri are holding their own, but surprisingly, Rice said Tennessee has seen a fall-off in tourists that may be a result of big flood that heavily damaged Opryland and other places in and around Nashville.

Mississippi and Louisiana have taken a beating due to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rice is cautious about the coming fall and says the weather during the next few weeks may dictate how good — or bad — fall tourism may be.

"I think we’re going to have a good — but not great — fall season. All this heat and the lack of rainfall make us worry about the foliage," Rice said .

"While the economy is showing some signs of improvement, what gains there are may not be enough to positively influence the fall season which is really just weeks away."

Link here for more on this story, including tourism staff levels in Arkansas and other states.