Fort Smith area tourism numbers up in 2015, state numbers set new records

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 119 views 

Hospitality tax collections in the Fort Smith area are showing gains after getting off to a slow start for 2015. The tourism industry is doing well statewide, with collections of the state’s tourism tax setting records for January through April revenue.

Food and hotel tax revenue in Van Buren for the first four reporting months of the year are $144,380, up slightly over the $141,309 in the same period of 2014. April collections of the two taxes totaled $37,718, up 1.97% compared to April 2014. The city collects a 1% tax on lodging and a 1% prepared food tax.

“We continue to see an upward climb in revenue for 2015. We are beginning to see the same percentage of increase that we saw before the downturn in the economy in 2009. A good indication that the economy continues to recover and consumer spending habits for travel and dining are slowly returning to the post recession levels,” said Maryl Koeth, executive director of the Van Buren Advertising & Promotion Commission.

Hospitality tax collections in Van Buren during 2014 totaled $430,278, up 1.4% compared to 2013.

Fort Smith hospitality tax revenue in the January-April period is $252,701, up 4.6% compared to the same period in 2014. April collections were $69,565, up almost 7% compared to the $65,127 in April 2014. The city collects a 3% tax on lodging.

The Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau collected $761,826 in 2014, up 4.2% compared to 2013.

Employment in the Fort Smith metro tourism sector posted records in 2014, but those levels have not been maintained so far in 2014.

Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 8,900 during April, down from 9,100 in March and below the 9,300 in April 2014. The sector reached 2014 employment highs of 9,300 in May, June and August. The numbers were recently revised by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That revision lowered the top monthly 2014 employment in the sector from 9,900 to 9,300. The peak employment for the sector is 9,400 which was first reached in June 2007.

STATEWIDE TOURISM NUMBERS
Collections of Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax during the first four months of 2015 totaled $4.247 million, up 7.25% compared to the same period in 2014. Collections for each of the four months of 2015 set a new record for that month.

Collections of the tax in 2014 totaled $13.677 million, up 7.48% compared to the $12.716 million collected in 2013. The 2014 tally set 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

Employment in Arkansas’ tourism and travel industry also has had a record year in 2015. Sector employment in May was estimated at 113,900, up from 113,300 in April and well ahead of 107,500 in May 2014. Sector employment reached a record of 114,800 in February.

FORT SMITH HOSPITALITY TAX COLLECTIONS
2014: $761,826
2013: $731,057
2012: $746,182
2011: $708,141
2010: $678,934

VAN BUREN HOSPITALITY TAX COLLECTIONS
2014: $430,278
2013: $423,221
2012: $425,554
2011: $429,561
2010: $395,195