Arkansas Tourism Ticker: Tourism industry sets new records in 2015

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 446 views 

Editor’s note: The Arkansas Tourism Ticker is sponsored by the Arkansas Hospitality Association.
Tourism and business travel in Arkansas during 2015 created new highs in the collection of the state’s 2% tourism tax and the number employed in the sector. Also, hospitality tax collections were up more than 7% in the 17 cities reviewed for the Arkansas Tourism Ticker.

The Arkansas Tourism Ticker is managed by Talk Business & Politics, and is published every two months, or six times a year. The ticker 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 2015 full year ticker report are:
• 7.41% increase
Hospitality tax revenue in 2015 of 17 Arkansas cities reviewed for the Arkansas Tourism Ticker

• 8.31% increase
Collections of Arkansas’ 2% statewide tourism tax in 2015 over 2014

• 5.04% increase
Increase in Arkansas’ tourism industry jobs in 2015 compared to 2014

Montine McNulty, executive director of the Arkansas Hospitality Association, said the ticker confirms that investments in advertising and promotion efforts are paying off.

“The numbers for 2015 are great news for  Arkansas hospitality businesses. The state 2% tax collected from travelers is up over 7% and employment is up over 5%. This means that our state’s tourism plan and investment of tax dollars in advertising and promotion is growing the Arkansas economy and increasing jobs,” McNulty said. “Tourism is leading the state’s economy in growth, and Arkansas businesses are also doing a better job with customer service and our product has improved. There is more to come.”


The combined hospitality tax collections in the 17 cities totaled $43.275 million in 2015, up 7.41% compared to 2014. The gains were equal among hotel and prepared food tax collections.

Restaurant (prepared food tax) tax collections among the 17 cities totaled $32.047 million in 2015, up 7.39% compared to the $29.84 million in 2014. Hotel tax collections among the 17 cities totaled $11.227 million in 2015, up 7.44% compared to the $10.45 million during 2014.

During the 2015, Texarkana was the only city among the 17 cities surveyed for the Arkansas Tourism Ticker to post an annual decline in collections. Percentage changes for the cities during the year ranged from a decline of 0.86% in Texarkana to a high of 30.2% in El Dorado.


Collections of Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax in 2015 totaled $14.815 million, up 8.31% compared to the $13.677 million in 2014. The record collections marked the first time the tax topped $14 million and marks the fifth consecutive year of year-over-year gains of the tax.

Following are the past six years of 2% tax collections.
2015: $14.815 million
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 November (latest detailed county numbers available), and the percentage increase/decrease from the same period in 2014.
Pulaski: $2.958 million, down 1.17%
Benton: $1.669 million, up 14.35%
Garland: $1.322 million, up 18.81%
Washington: $1.125 million, up 39.02%
Carroll: $674,538, up 5.39%
Sebastian: $501,045, up 3.23%
Baxter: $344,501, up 11.18%
Faulkner: $340,343, down 0.58%
Craighead: $327,298, down 3.16%
Crittenden: $312,928, down 11.71%

The monthly jobs average in the state’s travel and tourism sector during 2015 was 113,500, up 5.04% compared to an average of 108,050 during 2014.

Travel and tourism sector employment ranged from a low of 112,000 in October to a high of 116,000 in December. The December level, if not revised, set a new record for the sector. Travel and tourism sector employment during 2014 ranged from a 106,200 low in January to a high of 113,100 in December.

Job growth in the sector has been significant during the past 10 years. December employment of 116,000 is up 21.8% compared to December 2005 employment of 95,200.

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 2015 compared to 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 during the years noted.

Northwest Arkansas
2015: 23,140
2014: 21,990
2010: 18,150

Fort Smith
2015: 8,700
2014: 9,110
2010: 8,450

Central Arkansas (Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway)
2015: 34,100
2014: 32,300
2010: 29,760

Memphis-West Memphis
2015: 64,240
2014: 64,860
2010: 65,090

Texarkana (Arkansas-Texas)
2015: 6,510
2014: 6,240
2010: 5,750

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.

Link here for a PDF report of The Arkansas Tourism Ticker.