Little Rock continues to the lead the state’s travel industry, according to the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau’s 2018 annual report.
More than 6.4 million people visited Pulaski County in 2018, accounting for 22% of the state’s total visitors in all 75 Arkansas counties.
“We’ve seen good consistent growth year over year for the past several years,” said LRCVB President and CEO Gretchen Hall, noting she only remembers one year in the 17 years where the city had a negative decline over the prior year. “We haven’t seen huge spikes but good consistent growth, which is what we need to sustain and grown upon.”
Hall was recently named Arkansas Tourism person of the year.
The largest economic impact that 6.4 million had was in travel. They generated $1.95 billion in travel spending, accounting for 25% of the state’s 2018 travel expenditures, the report stated.
The high number of visitors created 13,786 travel industry jobs, which was responsible for $368.6 million in industry payroll, the report said.
“Visitors contributed $74.2 million and $33.3 million in state and local tax revenue, respectively. Pulaski County represented 23% of the state’s total travel-related employment. The 2% local advertising and promotion (A&P) tax collections continue to rise, with $14.3 million in 2018, an increase of 2.16% over 2017 collections,” the report said.
The LRCVB manages multiple public event venues including the Statehouse Convention Center, Robinson Center and River Market. In 2018, 636,683 people attended 525 events in those venues, the report stated, adding that there were 189,716 room night bookings for events taking place in 2018.
After being closed for more than two years, the Robinson Center had a strong year with more than 49,000 visitors in 2018, the report stated. Following its $70 million restoration, the venue re-opened in November 2016.
“It continues to bring net gains and hit productions. In 2018, Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ brought 23 performances, making it Little Rock’s longest running Broadway production to-date, the report stated.
Also noted in the report was Little Rock’s national and international attention in 2018 with the opening of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail that includes more than 100 sites in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Little Rock is home to six destinations, including the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site that boasted a Top Ten Trail Designation.