NWA hospitality sector expects bright 2015 after solid 2014

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 46 views 

The opening of the Amazeum, art and architecture, a film festival, a robust business climate and love for the Razorbacks are expected to draw more visitors to Northwest Arkansas this year.

That has hospitality sector officials gleaming with excitement as the region’s four largest cities posted a 15% gain in hospitality tax collections in the fourth quarter over a year ago. And the early numbers from 2015 are also outpacing last year.

Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville cumulatively collected $1.511 million in hotel and food service taxes for the last quarter of 2014. This compared to $1.310 million in the year ago period and $1.235 million collected in the same quarter of 2012.

Looking back at 2014 the Crystal Bridges "State of the Art" exhibition created a unique experience for visitors. The exhibitions offered a new perspective on living artists within the United States and was a huge draw in the fourth quarter, according to Kalene Griffith, director for Visit Bentonville.

“Crystal Bridges continues to bring over half million visitors to our city and region. Our mountain bike trails continue to be a new draw for the adventurous riders and the culinary experience is also gaining traction,” she added.

Bentonville reported a 17.6% uptick its fourth quarter hospitality receipts, collecting $481,660, compared to $409,409 reported a year earlier. Bentonville collects a 2% hotel tax and 1% prepared food tax. The city’s food tax comprised 67% of the hospitality tax collected in the recent quarter.

Rogers collects a 2% hotel tax which equaled $183,942 in the recent quarter. The city’s hotel tax revenue rose 18.7% from the $154,915 reported a year ago.

In Springdale the 2% hotel tax totaled $113,996, up from $102,012 reported a year ago. Roger Davis, general manager of the Holiday Inn in Springdale, said 2014 was a good year overall ending on a high note. He attributed the gains to more corporate and leisure travel from the stronger economy. Davis said his marketing team does a good job seeking conventions and corporations needing meeting space because he also oversees the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center next door and several thousand square feet of executive meeting space at the Holiday Inn location in Springdale.

In Fayetteville, hotel taxes totaled $88,106 for the quarter which was up about 8% from a year ago. The city also collects a 2% prepared food tax which brought in $643,390 in the quarter. Together the city collected $731,496 in hospitality taxes for the months of October, November and December, up 13.5% compared to the $643,999 in the same period of 2013.

Marilyn Hefner, executive director for Fayetteville Advertising and Promotions Commission, said November and December were great months for collections. November showed a 9.19% increase and December showed a 12.60% increase. A rising Arkansas Razorback football team helped to spur on the number of visitors to town this past fall and a new hotel opening in the city helped to provide more rooms.

The 98 hotels in the two-county area that participate in the STR Trend Report showed a 56.1% occupancy rate in the fourth quarter of 2014, up from the 47.1% in the year-ago period.

The hotels charged an average daily rate of $83.07 in the recent quarter, up 4.33% from the same period in 2013. The combined hotels showed revenue of $35.376 million in the quarter, which was 23.8% more than earned a year ago.

The report indicates there is still an over capacity of rooms in the region for most nights.  Another hotel is coming online in the next quarter with the opening of the Sheraton Four Points in Bentonville. This will add 100 more rooms to the supply of 8,235.

Davis and Griffith said 2015 is off to a strong start despite the winter weather that hit the first of March.

“We did have some ball teams and corporate travelers who could not make it into the city in recent weeks because of weather. But even with that, I still expect our (hotel) first quarter numbers to be up 20% over last year. We had a record February at this hotel,” Davis said.

Griffith said there is plenty to look forward to in Bentonville this year with the opening of the Amazeum by mid-summer as well as the Bachman Wilson House on the Crystal Bridges premises. 

“We believe these two attractions will draw more unique visitors to the region and our city which we have dubbed ‘A new American Town’ which celebrates its history but continues to bring new attractions our future enjoyment,” Griffith said.

Aside from those large attractions, she is also excited about the Bentonville Film Festival which shines attention to women in that creative arts industry.

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