Henry Award tourism recipients announced, Ark Tank winner named

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 450 views 

The Levon Helm Project won one of the top Arkansas tourism awards and Eksplor Gaming won the Ark Tank pitch competition. The winners were named Tuesday (March 3) during the 46th Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

Announced Tuesday night were the Henry Award winners. The awards honor individuals and organizations that have made important contributions to the state’s tourism industry in the preceding year. The Henry Awards have been a feature of the annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism since their debut in 1981. The awards are named for Henri de Tonti, founder of Arkansas Post in 1686, and who is often hailed as the first “Arkansas Traveler.”

Following are the Henry Award winners, announced during the conference held at the Fort Smith Convention Center.
• Tourism Person of the Year: J.R. Shaw of Visit Rogers
• Media Support Award: Arkansas Festivals and Events Association
• Bootstrap Award: Marvell Civic Club for the Levon Helm Project
• Exceptional Use of Social Media Award: Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau Social Media Team
• Outstanding Digital Campaign/Website Award: Searcy
• Distinguished Volunteer Service Award: Clinton Presidential Center Volunteers
• The Natural State Community Development Award: Rogers
• Tourism Region of the Year (2020 People’s Choice Award): Arkansas Delta Byways

The Ark Tank, a startup pitch competition developed in 2019 by Arkansas Tourism in partnership with Innovate Arkansas, concluded Tuesday after five finalists presented their business ideas.

Eksplor Gaming was named the winner and received a cash prize of $5,000, a guarantee for mentorship, and ongoing advisement with Innovate Arkansas and the Arkansas Tourism research and development section.

“Not only is Ark Tank an entertaining competition to watch, it also encourages new ideas and new ways of thinking about business,” Kristine Puckett, interim director of Arkansas Tourism, said in a statement. “It gives the competitors a chance to make connections with industry leaders and promote their business ideas. It’s also a great opportunity for conference attendees to start conversations about partnership and collaboration, and to take home actionable information from our annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism.”

From 15 applications received, five finalists were chosen to pitch to judges and conference attendees. The competition criteria required that the presenting companies be a tourism-related business, defined as one that directly interacts with tourists, deals with businesses that cater to tourists, encourages tourism in and travel to Arkansas, and/or supports tourism-related activities in Arkansas. The four other finalists in the competition were: The Local Table NWA, Float Eureka, Dome Life and Dogwood Hills Guest Farm.

Four guests were invited to hear the presentations, ask questions and judge the competition. The panel of judges included: Brad Henry, managing partner, Natural Capital; David Sanders, director, Innovate Arkansas; Gretchen Hall, president and CEO of Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau; Michael Lindsey, director of Public Affairs for Wal-Mart.