Collections of Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax set records in March and April, but the number of tourism jobs in the state fell slightly compared to 2016. Overall, the pace of tourism sector growth is slowing compared to 2016, but expansion continues in the state’s second largest industry.
To be sure, the 2017 numbers are being compared against a robust 2016 and an impressive growth trend in 2015. The 2016 Arkansas Tourism Ticker report showed a 4% gain in hospitality tax revenue among 17 Arkansas cities reviewed for the report, a 4.36% increase in collections of the state’s 2% tourism tax, and a 1.58% increase in Arkansas tourism industry jobs compared to 2015.
In 2015, the report showed a 7.41% increase in hospitality tax revenue among the 17 Arkansas cities, an 8.31% increase in collections of the state’s 2% tourism tax, and a 5.04% increase in Arkansas tourism industry jobs compared to 2014.
The Arkansas Tourism Ticker is managed by Talk Business & Politics, and sponsored by the Arkansas Hospitality Association. 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.
• 2.17% increase
Collections of Arkansas’ 2% statewide tourism tax in January-April 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.
• 0.17% decrease
Decrease in Arkansas’ tourism industry jobs in January-April 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.
Arkansas Tourism Director Joe David Rice said the 2% tourism tax numbers did slow in the April reports. For example, in the top 10 counties in terms of amount collected, there was a collection decline in six counties.
“Somewhere I seem to recall reading that American consumers are still unsettled, not sure about the future. That could result in fewer and shorter trips. Then, again, you’d think the low gasoline prices might offset any hesitation to travel,” Rice noted.
Of the 17 cities surveyed for the Arkansas Tourism Ticker, six posted hospitality tax collection declines to begin the year (Rogers, down 18.96%; El Dorado, down 16.2%; Bentonville, down 3%; Texarkana, down 1.37%; Fort Smith, down 1.08%), and Pine Bluff, down 0.28%). Of the 11 cities with gains, the range was a 36.86% gain in Russellville and a 0.45% gain in North Little Rock.
The state’s tourism tax revenue totaled $4.563 million in the first four months of 2017, up 2.17% compared to the same period in 2016. Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax generated $15.461 million in 2016, up 4.36% over the $14.815 million in 2015. Collections of Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax hit a monthly record of $1.656 million in July 2015. Tourism tax collections of $1.374 million in March and $1.298 million in April set new monthly records for the tax.
Link here for the PDF report of the Arkansas Tourism Ticker.
Editor’s note: Kathy Reed with Talk Business & Politics contributed to this report.