Editor’s note: The Arkansas Tourism Ticker is sponsored by the Arkansas Hospitality Association.
September and October were good months for Arkansas’ tourism sector, with hospitality tax collections among 17 cities up 7.58% for the first 10 months of the year, an improvement over the 5% gain during the first eight months of 2015.
The state’s second largest economic sector continues to post healthy gains in municipal hospitality tax revenue, a statewide tourism tax and tourism-related jobs.
The Arkansas Tourism Ticker is managed by Talk Business & Politics, 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.
Results for the January-October ticker report are:
Gain in combined January-October hospitality tax collections in 17 Arkansas cities compared to the same period in 2014;
January-October 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 October compared to January-October 2014.
The inaugural Ticker report showed that 2014 hospitality tax revenue in the cities was 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 Arkansas Tourism Ticker is published every two months, or six times a year.
The combined hospitality tax collections in the 17 cities totaled $36.747 million in January-October, up 7.58% compared to January-October 2014. The gain was above the 5.01% increase posted in the 17 cities for the first eight months of 2015.
Restaurant (prepared food tax) tax collections among the 17 cities totaled $27.19 million in the January-October period, up 7.57% compared to the $25.276 million in January-October 2014.
Hotel tax collections among the 17 cities totaled $9.556 million in the January-October period, up 7.59% compared to the $8.878 million during the same period of 2014.
During the January-October period, none of the 17 cities surveyed for the Arkansas Tourism Ticker posted a year-over-year decline in collections. Gains for the eight month period ranged from a low of 0.6% in Texarkana to a high of 24.6% in El Dorado.
STATEWIDE TOURISM TAX
Collections of Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax in January and October totaled $12.925 million, up 8.5% compared to the $11.912 million in January-October of 2014. Collections of the tax through October have set a record each month except for May. The May tally missed setting a new record by $120.
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 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
Following are the top 10 counties in terms of collecting 2% tourism tax between January and August (latest detailed county numbers available), and the percentage increase/decrease from the same period in 2014.
Pulaski: $2.205 million, down 0.49%
Benton: $1.164 million, up 13.06%
Garland: $1.025 million, up 15.95%
Washington: $757,969, up 51.09%
Carroll: $458,985, up 2.92%
Sebastian: $379,321, up 9.89%
Faulkner: $255,735, up 0.95%
Baxter: $252,840, up 7.16%
Craighead: $235,261, down 5.06%
Crittenden: $221,604, down 19.22%
Travel and tourism sector employment ranged from a low of 112,000 in October to a high of 114,800 in February. The February level, if not revised, set a new record for the sector. Travel and tourism sector employment during the first 10 months of 2014 ranged from a 106,200 low in January to a high of 107,800 in October.
Job growth in the sector has been significant during the past 10 years. October employment of 112,000 is up 17.7% compared to October 2005 employment of 95,100.
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-October period compared to the same period in 2014. The Memphis-West Memphis area is the only one of the metro areas to see a decline in 2015 compared to 2010. Following are comparisons of the monthly employment averages in the January-October period.
Jan.-October 2015: 22,740
Jan.-October 2014: 21,850
Jan.-October 2010: 18,070
Jan.-October 2015: 8,770
Jan.-October 2014: 9,110
Jan.-October 2010: 8,450
Central Arkansas (Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway)
Jan.-October 2015: 33,820
Jan.-October 2014: 32,160
Jan.-October 2010: 29,670
Jan.-October 2015: 64,110
Jan.-October 2014: 64,980
Jan.-October 2010: 64,950
Jan.-October 2015: 6,490
Jan.-October 2014: 6,200
Jan.-October 2010: 5,720
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, Talk Business & Politics decided to work with officials in the state’s travel and tourism sector to capture some indication of the relative health of the industry.