There should be little doubt Arkansas’ travel and tourism industry is doing well. Sector employment set a new record high in February and collections of the state’s 2% tourism tax set new collection records in January and February.
The Arkansas Tourism Ticker shows that the three key measurements of Arkansas’ leisure and hospitality sector during January and February posted healthy gains over the same period in 2014. The ticker is managed by The City Wire, and uses the following three measurements to review the health of the state’s tourism industry. The Arkansas Tourism Ticker will be produced every two months, or six times a year.
• Hospitality tax collections – prepared food tax and lodging tax – of 17 Arkansas cities;
• Tourism sector employment numbers as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; and
• Collections of Arkansas’ 2% statewide tourism tax.
Results for the January-February ticker report are:
Gain in combined January-February hospitality tax collections in 17 Arkansas cities compared to the same period in 2014
January-February gain in Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax compared to the same period in 2014
Increase in average Arkansas’ tourism industry jobs during January and February compared to January-February 2014
The January-February report follows the inaugural Ticker report in which 2014 hospitality tax collections in the cities were up 3.7% over 2013; Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax revenue in 2014 was up 7.48% compared to 2013; and jobs in the state’s travel and tourism sector were up 6.5% in 2014 compared to 2013.
The combined hospitality tax collections in the 17 cities totaled $6.378 million in January-February, up 8.67% compared to January-February 2014. Collections in the 17 cities were up more than 30% compared to the same period in 2010.
Restaurant (prepared food tax) tax collections among the 17 cities totaled $4.979 million in January and February, up 8.78% compared to the $4.577 million in January-February 2014.
Hotel tax collections among the 17 cities totaled $1.399 million in January and February, up 8.27% compared to the $1.292 million during the same period of 2014.
During the January-February period, only three cities – El Dorado, Texarkana and Van Buren – saw hospitality tax collection declines.
STATEWIDE TOURISM TAX
Collections of Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax in January and February totaled $1.775 million, up 7.48% compared to the $1.651 million in January-February of 2014. The January collection of $833,448 and the February collection of $941,979 were new records for each month.
The 2% tourism tax in 2014 totaled $13.677 million, up 7.48% compared to the $12.716 million collected in 2013. The 2014 tally sets a new record for the tax. Following are the past five years of 2% tax collections.
2014: $13.677 million
2013: $12.716 million
2012: $12.404 million
2011: $12.025 million
2010: $11.492 million
TOURISM JOB NUMBERS
Jobs in the travel and tourism sector during January and February were up 6.67% compared to the same period in 2014.
The travel and tourism sector employed 112,100 in January and 114,800 in February for an average of 113,450. That’s well ahead of the 106,200 and 106,500 in January and February 2014, respectively, for an average of 106,350.
If it stands, the 114,800 employed in Arkansas’ travel and tourism industry during February is a new record high for the sector.
Job growth in the sector has been impressive during the past 10 years. February employment of 114,800 is up almost 23% compared to February 2005 employment of 93,600.
Of the eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides tourism employment data on five. The Fort Smith and Memphis-West Memphis areas were the only metro areas to see travel and tourism sector employment declines in the January-February period. Following are comparisons of the employment averages in the January-February period.
Jan.-Feb. 2015: 21,100
Jan.-Feb. 2014: 20,650
Jan.-Feb. 2010: 16,900
Jan.-Feb. 2015: 8,650
Jan.-Feb. 2014: 8,750
Jan.-Feb. 2010: 8,200
Central Arkansas (Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway)
Jan.-Feb. 2015: 31,850
Jan.-Feb. 2014: 30,550
Jan.-Feb. 2010: 28,000
Jan.-Feb. 2015: 61,900
Jan.-Feb. 2014: 62,500
Jan.-Feb. 2010: 62,650
Jan.-Feb. 2015: 6,200
Jan.-Feb. 2014: 5,850
Jan.-Feb. 2010: 5,450
WHY THE TICKER?
Arkansas’ tourism industry is an important economic engine for the state, and is often cited as Arkansas’ second largest industry – behind agriculture.
There are many reports and economic indices to measure several areas of the the state’s economy. The City Wire issues a monthly housing report (The Arkansas Home Sales Report). The University of Arkansas issues a quarterly report on economic activity, and has published reports on the economic impact of the Fayetteville Shale Play. There are reports to measure public opinion on various social issues.
But there has not been an independent report looking at the health of the state’s tourism sector. Therefore, The City Wire decided to work with officials in the state’s travel and tourism sector to capture some indication of the relative health of the industry.