Stacy Hurst, the newly named secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, on Wednesday (Sept. 25) unveiled the latest economic report on how the tourism and hospitality industry fared in 2018.
Overall travel expenditures rose 4.4% from 2017 to 2018 with visitors spending $7.37 billion in Arkansas during the year. Hurst, who delivered her remarks at the Arkansas Hospitality Association’s annual convention in Little Rock, said the Natural State saw more than 32 million visitors last year.
She also noted the tourism and hospitality industry employs more than 100,000 workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 122,600 jobs in the sector in August, up from 118,800 in August 2018, and tied the record for employment first set in June. The state’s 2% tourism tax was up 2.7% in 2018 to more than $408 million. Local hospitality taxes brought in more than $161 million to Arkansas communities.
“We’ve also got a lot of new product that’s coming on the market. You know, 2020 and beyond is going to be even better because we continue to bring these really exciting new products to the market,” Hurst told Talk Business & Politics.
Hurst said the state conducts “sophisticated analysis” of social media behavior to see how it translates to people either learning more about the state or visiting the state.
Hurst also said the state uses “influencers” to push out the state’s message on their Instagram or social media platforms. Hurst also said those who request a travel guide through arkansas.com are 70% likely to visit the state.
Other findings from the 2018 impact report include:
• Arkansas’ total travel expenditures are up 4.4%;
• Travel-generated local tax is up 2.9%;
• Travel-generated payroll is up 3.3%; and
• And travel-generated employment is up 1.2%.
The Arkansas Tourism Ticker, managed by Talk Business & Politics, and sponsored by the Arkansas Hospitality Association, showed that the state’s 2% tourism tax revenue between January and June was up 5.7% compared with the same period in 2018.
Results for the Jan.-June 2019 Tourism Ticker report are:
• 4.7% increase
Hospitality tax revenue in Jan.-June 2019 among 17 Arkansas cities reviewed for the Arkansas Tourism Ticker compared with the same period in 2018
• 5.7% increase
Collections of Arkansas’ 2% statewide tourism tax in Jan.-June 2019 compared with the same period in 2018
• 3.5% increase
Increase in monthly average of Arkansas’ tourism industry jobs in Jan.-June 2019 compared with the same period in 2018
Numbers from the first half of 2019 are up against broad gains in 2018. Collections of Arkansas’ 2% tourism set a new record in 2018 and hospitality tax collections among 17 Arkansas cities surveyed for the Arkansas Tourism ticker topped the $50 million mark in 2018. The year marked the fourth consecutive year of growth as measured by the Arkansas Tourism Ticker.