In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought travel around the world to sudden standstill. In the months prior, the year looked to be on track for a record-setting one in terms of leisure visitation and tax collection for the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB).
Instead, Little Rock advertising and promotion tax collections fell 19.1% from 2019 to $12 million, an amount not seen since 2013.
“Though the year presented an incredible challenge, the LRCVB was able to pivot and find new opportunities to sustain growth. Though the LRCVB’s managed facilities — Statehouse Convention Center, Robinson Center, and River Market — experienced nearly 300 group cancellations and more than 50 postponements, sales efforts continued securing 148 future group event contracts, representing more than 66,000 hotel room nights and $37 million in estimated direct spending,” a LRCVB news release said.
There were 149 events held at LRCVB managed facilities in 2020, down 73% from 2019.
To start the new decade, LRCVB launched a new brand positioning for the leisure market, reworking the “Big on Little Rock” slogan from the 1990s with “If you’re big on (target interest), you’re big on Little Rock,” the release said.
Soon after the pandemic’s onset, the new branding was utilized to create the “Big on Safety Pledge” and 200 local businesses signed up, agreeing to follow CDC and Arkansas Department of Health guidelines to ensure a safe environment for employees and guests, the release said.
The year also came with a few accolades, which include the following.
• LRCVB’s “We’re Ready For You” video won the SMART Meetings Magazine contest.
• LRCVB social media team received an Arkansas Tourism Henry Award for “Exceptional Use of Social Media” for branded GIF stickers.
• Little Rock was named a “Bronze” friendly city by the American League of Bicyclists.
• Lassis Inn was named an “American Classic” by the James Beard Foundation.
• Scott McGehee or Little Rock was inducted into the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame as proprietor of the year, and the city’s International Greek Food Festival was inducted as the food themed event.
• Museum of Discovery was named No. 6 of Top 10 Best Children’s Museums by 10Best/USA Today.
• Little Rock was included in NPR’s list of “Small Cities that are a Big Draw for Remote Work During the Pandemic.”