Regional tourism tax revenue up in 2012

by The City Wire staff ( 5 views 

When Maryl Koeth was planning for 2012, she estimated a mere 1% increase in Van Buren hospitality tax collections. She missed the estimate by several points, and she’s happy about that.

During 2012, Van Buren hospitality tax collections totaled $425,554, up 5.2% compared to the 2011 collections. The city collects a 1% tax on lodging and a 1% prepared food tax.

“I budgeted a very conservative 1% increase for 2012 which was $406,740. … Not bad, not bad at all. My 2013 projection is a little more optimistic at 3%,” said Koeth, executive director of the Van Buren Advertising & Promotion Commission.

The 2012 figures also mark two years of gains in the collections, which reflect gains in the city’s tourism and business traveler business.

Hospitality tax collections in Van Buren during 2011 totaled $429,561, up 2.34% compared to 2010. The 2011 collections ended a two-year skid in Van Buren.

It was a similar story in Fort Smith, with collections up more than 5% for the year.

During 2012, Fort Smith hospitality tax collections totaled $746,182, up 5.37% compared to the 2011 period. The city collects a 3% tax on lodging.

December hospitality collections in Fort Smith totaled $45,367, down 5.2% compared to December 2011. The December collections followed a 1.2% dip in November.

“We are pleased to have far exceeded the previous year’s collections as well as the increase (3%) that we had budgeted for 2012. The revenue budget for 2013 also includes a 3% increase over this year’s collections,” said Claude Legris, executive director of the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Legris said the 2013 marketing plan will see a change.

“We are currently making adjustments to our marketing efforts for 2013 based on the announcement by True West Magazine in December that Fort Smith had been named their “#1 True Western Town” for the year, to capitalize on that honor to the casual traveler, some of whom have mentioned the title to staff at the Welcome Center at Dora within days of the announcement,” Legris explained.

Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 8,100 during December, down from 8,300 in November and above the 8,000 in December 2011. The sector reached an employment high of 9,800 in December 2008.

Despite the increase in collections, average monthly employment in the Fort Smith metro tourism sector is on a three-year decline. During 2007, 2008 and 2009, the average monthly employment was 9,300. That fell to 8,700 during 2010, 8,500 during 2011 and an estimated 8,400 during 2012. The sector reached an employment high of 9,800 in November 2008.

Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax receipts totaled $12.405 million during 2012, up 3.16% compared to the $12.025 million during 2011. The gains marked the third consecutive year of improving tourism tax revenue. Collection of the statewide tax was $12.025 million during 2011, up 4.6% compared to $11.492 million during 2010.

Arkansas’ tourism sector (leisure & hospitality) employed 102,800 during December, down from the 103,800 during November and ahead of the 99,200 during December 2011. The sector reached a record 104,900 jobs during April.