Arkansas tourism economic impact down 25.3%; tourism award winners announced

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,029 views 

The 2020 Arkansas Tourism Economic Impact Report shows a 35.6% decline in leisure travelers to the state and a more than 25% decline in overall tourism economic impact compared with 2019. The declines are attributed to COVID-19 closures and disruptions.

The report, posted earlier this week during the 48th Annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism held in Fayetteville, shows the total tourism industry impact at $6.004 billion in 2020, down 25.3% compared with 2019. Total travelers to the state were an estimated 32.4 million, down 37.3%. Of the total travelers, an estimated 24.4 million were leisure travelers, down 35.6%. (Link here for a PDF of the complete report.)

“I am pleased with the results of our 2020 Economic Impact Report,” Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, noted in a statement. “Although the visitation and tax collection decreases in this year’s report are not ones that we want to repeat, the good news is we outperformed many of our competitor markets. The data reflects the hard work and commitment of our industry to successfully navigate unheard of challenges.”

Following are other items in the report.
• Arkansas’s Welcome Centers assisted more than 627,000 visitors in 2020.
• 51,882 jobs were tied to tourism and travel in 2020, down 23.4%.
• Local tax revenue tied to tourism and travel was an estimated $138.8 million, down 16.9%.
• All state tax revenue tied to tourism and travel was an estimated $363.7 million, down 21.8%.
• Of the overall $6 billion impact, $1.8 billion is attributed to food and beverage sales, and $1.7 billion to transportation.

Following are the top 10 counties in estimated travel and tourism expenditures.
Pulaski: $1.178 billion
Garland: $558.1 million
Benton: $548 million
Washington: $382 million
Carroll: $241.5 million
Sebastian: $238.2 million
Crittenden: $190 million
Craighead: $165 million
Baxter: $158.4 million
Faulkner: $128.7 million

Travis Napper, director of Arkansas Tourism, said the state’s tourism industry is well positioned to recover because of its many outdoor attractions, events and natural beauty.

“The Natural State has long been known for its scenic outdoor beauty and attractions, and our reputation served as a safety net during a challenging time for more urban destinations,” Napper said. “As the world continues to make its way out of the pandemic, we already know that 2021 data will illustrate a record-breaking year for Arkansas visitation. More than ever, people are looking for safe outdoor activities, and they clearly have seen that Arkansas is the place to go.”

Winners of the state’s top tourism awards were also announced at the conference.
• Tourism Person of the Year: Kalene Griffith of Visit Bentonville
• The Natural State Tourism Development Award: Thrive, Inc.
• Tourism Organization of the Year: Visit Hot Springs
• Tourism Attraction of the Year: Hot Springs National Park
• Rising Star Award: Paul and Sarah Heer
• Tourism Region of the Year (People’s Choice Award): Diamond Lakes Region