The travel and tourism industry in the Fort Smith area is up for the first half of the year, with six month collections up 2.6% in Fort Smith and 2.95% in Van Buren.
For the first six months of 2011, hospitality tax collections in Van Buren totaled $193,382, up compared to the $187,824 in the 2010 period. June tax collections totaled $36,191, up 4.5% compared to June 2010. Van Buren collects a 1% tax on lodging and a 1% tax on restaurants.
Maryl Koeth, executive director of the Van Buren Advertising & Promotion Commission, said the largest increases continue to be with hotels.
“Most (hotel) properties are reporting an increase in both business and leisure travel. Restaurants are only reporting a 1% increase over last year,” Koeth explained.
She said the hotel managers she talks to are “very pleased” with the traffic.
“They said the leisure travelers are still not what they were, but are slowly getting better,” she said.
For all of 2010, Van Buren hospitality tax collections totaled $395,195, down just 0.62% compared to 2009. For all of 2009, hospitality tax collections were down 7.1% compared to 2008. Hospitality tax collections for Van Buren in 2008 totaled $410,914, up 7.4% over 2007 and up more than 14.5% over 2006.
Fort Smith hospitality tax collections during the first six months of 2011 total $356,677, up 2.6% over the $347,519 in the 2010 period. However, the first six months does not include a delinquent payment of $3,577 received Aug. 1. The August report will include a revision to account for payment. Fort Smith hospitality taxes are collected from a 3% tax on hotel room rates.
During June, collections totaled $76,981, just above the $76,760 collected in June 2010.
Claude Legris, executive director of the Fort Smith Visitors & Convention Bureau, is hopeful the positive trend will continue into the second half of the year.
“We are anticipating budgeting a 3% increase for the 2012 budget for the CVB which would be in keeping with what we’re seeing in the year to date increase year over year,” Legris said.
Hotel tax collections in Fort Smith during all of 2010 totaled $678,934, up 1.04% compared to 2009. During 2009, Fort Smith hospitality tax collections totaled $671,912, down more than 16% from 2008. Fort Smith hospitality tax collections in 2008 totaled $803,591, 11% more than the $723,548 collected in 2007, and more than 19% above 2006 collections.
In the Fort Smith metro area, there were an estimated 9,500 employed in the leisure and hospitality sector during June, unchanged from May and well above the 8,900 the sector employed in June 2010. Sector employment is coming close to a high of 9,800 in August 2008.
Arkansas’ 2% tourism collection garnered $4.428 million during the first five months of 2011, up 2.18% compared to the 2010 period. For all of 2010, the tax generated $11.492 million, up 0.99% compared to 2009. The collections were off the 2008 high of $12.005 million.
The state’s tourism sector — Leisure & Hospitality jobs — employed an estimated 104,400 during June, up compared to the 103,500 in May and 5.34% more than in June 2010.