For 40 years, CJRW has been honored to be the marketing and communications partner for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Through the decades, we’ve told many stories of all that Arkansas has to offer, and there are countless others waiting to be shared.
No matter where in Arkansas you live, you are just a two to three hour drive from creating memorable experiences for you and your family. Yet, there is an unintentional tendency to take for granted all of the wonderful quality-of-life amenities and attractions that our state has to offer.
For instance, when was the last time you visited the magnificent Cedar Falls waterfall at Petit Jean Mountain State Park?
Or floated a canoe down the Spring River at Hardy?
Or learned about the legacy of Johnny Cash at his boyhood home in Mississippi County?
Or have experienced the healing waters on Hot Springs National Park’s bathhouse row?
The list goes on and on. Those are questions we’ve asked of ourselves at CJRW. Day in and day out, nearly every member of our team works on promoting the Natural State as a world-class vacation destination. As our staff tells these great stories, we want to make sure that they are also experiencing what they are promoting.
That’s why we created the CJRW Explore Arkansas program to encourage and incentivize employees to travel and spend money in Arkansas. It’s a perk that will reimburse employees, up to $500 annually, who use paid time off (PTO), weekends or holidays to vacation in Arkansas.
It includes funds for overnight lodging, dining at locally-owned restaurants, watercraft rentals and admission to area attractions and museums. Employees are also encouraged to make social media posts using #ExploreArkansas and submit photos of their trip to CJRW’s newly developed Explore Arkansas Travel Journal.
Keeping vacation dollars right here in Arkansas is critical to our economy. For every dollar spent on tourism related expenses, two percent is collected and reinvested back into the state’s marketing efforts to continue enhancing Arkansas’s image around the world. In fact, in the last five years, revenues generated by the 2% tax have grown nearly 28%.
We are only a few months into this program but believe it will be beneficial for our employees and our state. This is my invitation to you to join us and consider implementing a similar program that is appropriate for your company and today’s modern workplace.
An organization known as Project: Time Off conducts research every year that studies whether Americans use their annual allowance of vacation time. In 2017, the data revealed that 52 percent of American workers had unused vacation time. What’s more, 24 percent said that they hadn’t taken any paid vacation in more than a year.
It’s hard to fathom employees not wanting to take advantage of their paid time off. But many of those who participated in the Project: Time Off research spoke of having feelings of fear and guilt. They’re fearful that taking time off might make them appear to be less dedicated. They experience guilt because of the demands of a heavy workload.
However, the Explore Arkansas concept sends a clear message to employees that you not only want them to use their paid time off, but are further incentivizing them to do so by reimbursing expenses for a “stay-cation.”
It’s a win-win-win situation. As an employer, you win in that used vacation time leads to higher productivity, stronger morale in the workplace and greater employee retention. Employees win in that they are able to enjoy a mental and physical break from the day-to-day routine, thereby recharging their minds and spirits.
Arkansas’ economy wins in that vacation dollars stay in the state and are invested in local communities.
I am happy, at any time, to share more details of our program. As a matter of fact, you can use the “Explore Arkansas” name for your program, too.
CJRW’s goal is to make Arkansas an even more attractive vacation option for Arkansans. And the best place to start is within our own company.
Arkansas is, indeed, the Natural State. Encourage and incentivize your employees to live life to its fullest right here at home.
Editor’s note: Jill Joslin is the president of CJRW, a full-service marketing, advertising and public relations agency based in Little Rock. The opinions expressed are those of the author.