Stacy Hurst, Arkansas’ secretary of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, said while the recent legislative session spiked emails to her agency due to negative national headlines, there were also a number of positive achievements made in the 93rd General Assembly.
Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, Hurst said the national press garnered from legislation centered around “culture wars” has resulted in an increase in opinions for her agency to field.
“We’re getting some emails from individuals mainly. And we just respond that Arkansas is a very welcoming state. We’re known for our hospitality,” she said, noting that there has not been the type of economic response seen in North Carolina after it passed, and then rescinded, a transgender bathroom law a couple of years ago.
“What happened in North Carolina with the bathroom bill that they passed and then repealed, it impacted large events, conventions, sporting events. And so that typically hurts the big cities, the convention centers, the larger cities, I’ll say,” Hurst said.
She said legislative controversies did not come up in the recent announcement that War Memorial Stadium will be the three-year home for the national junior college football championship.
Hurst said businesses are opening back up in the wake of the pandemic and she’s seeing a lot of activity in the economically devastated tourism and hospitality industry.
“As I’ve traveled the state of Arkansas, there seems to be a real eagerness to be back to normal life and so I think that we are pretty close to full capacity again. I will tell you as we’ve looked at our state parks’ visitation, our lodges, our campsites, our cabins are very full. And so, I think people are really eager to get back to normal,” she said.
During the recently recessed legislative session, Hurst said there were a number of bills that advanced that will be helpful to travel, tourism and preservation in the state.
One change allows for “dynamic pricing” at state parks. The state will now have the authority to increase prices by 20% during high demand, but also decrease prices by 50% during down times. Another new law creates a trust fund to provide big grants to cultural institutions. Hurst said she believes this will lead to new museums, art centers, and other cultural spaces at the local level. Finally, legislators passed a new law to expand the historic tax credit from $4 million to $8 million.
“We’ve got a backlog of projects in historic preservation. This will allow us to loosen that backlog up and really allow some really great projects to happen across the state of Arkansas,” she said.
You can watch Hurst’s full interview in the video below.