Arkansas’ tourism sector appears to be outpacing the nation in growth. Travel and tourism spending continued to grow nationally in the third quarter, but at a slower rate than earlier in the year.
According to a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, national spending grew in the summer months at an annual rate of 4.3% after increasing 8.4% in the second quarter of 2015.
Employment growth in the travel and tourism industries accelerated, increasing 2.2% in the third quarter of 2015 after increasing 1.6% in the second quarter. In comparison, overall U.S. employment increased 1.8% in the third quarter after increasing 1.7% in the second quarter. “Food services and drinking places ” was the most significant contributor to employment growth, adding 14,600 employees, followed by “air transportation” which added 4,500 employees.
In Arkansas, tourism growth seems to be a bit stronger. Collections for the 2% tourism trust fund tax, the most common way the health of the industry is measured were up 7.6% for the year to date at the end of August, the most recent numbers available. Comparatively, at the end of June, or the second quarter, growth for the year was at 6.35%.
Arkansas has trended higher for the year, according to the most recent Arkansas Tourism Ticker report. The report is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by the Arkansas Hospitality Association, and uses the following three measurements to review the health of the state’s tourism industry.
• Hospitality tax collections – prepared food tax and lodging tax – of 17 Arkansas cities (cities listed below along with collections for each city);
• Tourism sector employment numbers as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; and
• Collections of Arkansas’ 2% statewide tourism tax.
Following are the results for the January-August ticker:
Gain in combined January-August hospitality tax collections in 17 Arkansas cities compared to the same period in 2014;
January-August gain in Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax compared to the same period in 2014; and
Increase in average monthly Arkansas tourism industry jobs during January and August compared to January-August 2014.
Tourism employment in Arkansas was also reported stronger than the national trend. Employment numbers through August showed job growth up 5.8% compared to the same time in 2014. Arkansas averaged more than 113,000 jobs in the tourism sector each month of 2015.