Arkansas’ tourism sector posts improved trends in first half of 2017

by Michael Tilley (mtilley@talkbusiness.net) 164 views 

After dipping slightly in the first four months of the year, the state’s second largest industry posted a new record 2% tourism tax collection and tourism job growth returned to positive territory by the end of June.

For example, during the first four months of the year, 2% tourism tax growth was up 2.17%. May and June activity pushed the gain to 4.38%. June set a new record with $1.763 million, and the month also marked the first time collection of the tax was above the $1.7 million mark.

The 2017 numbers are 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;
• 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 2017 January-June ticker report are:
• 2.97% increase
Hospitality tax revenue in the two-month period among 17 Arkansas cities reviewed for the Arkansas Tourism Ticker

• 4.38% increase
Collections of Arkansas’ 2% statewide tourism tax in January-June 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.

• 1.29% increase
Inccrease in Arkansas’ tourism industry jobs in January-June 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.

Arkansas Hospitality Association Executive Director Montine McNulty said the industry has a plan to build on the industry gains into 2018.

“I am excited to see the increase in tax revenue. Our industry continues to lead the state in jobs and tax revenue. We have an exciting marketing plan for 2018 and Arkansas can expect continued growth in our industry,” she told Talk Business & Politics.

Of the 17 cities surveyed for the Arkansas Tourism Ticker, three posted hospitality tax collection declines to begin the year (El Dorado, down 12.02%; Fort Smith, down 3.68%; and Jonesboro, down 0.28%). Of the 14 cities with gains, the range was a 36.14% gain in Russellville and a 0.27% gain in North Little Rock.

Only four cities posted hospitality tax collection declines in 2016 (El Dorado, down 7.39%; Pine Bluff, down 4.37%; Rogers, down 2.07%; and Russellville, down 1.76%). Of the 13 cities with gains, the range was a 12.11% gain in Springdale and a 2.66% gain in Conway.

Also, the state’s tourism tax revenue totaled $7.818 million in the first half of 2017, up 4.38% 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.

Link here for more data in the PDF report of the Arkansas Tourism Ticker.
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Editor’s note: Kathy Reed with Talk Business & Politics contributed to this report.

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