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Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau reports positive outlook for tourism numbers

Cyclists ride one of the Monument Trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Little Rock.
Jared Sorrells
Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau
Cyclists ride one of the Monument Trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Little Rock.

The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau says the region is recovering from the pandemic as a travel destination. They are striving to return to pre-pandemic numbers to help Little Rock experience a full economic recovery.

The organization published its 2021 report on Friday which showed the performance of the region as a destination during the global pandemic. Communications Director Libby Doss Lloyd said Little Rock was doing extremely well before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“2019 was a fantastic year for the City of Little Rock and 2020 was actually going to be another same, if not greater year. We had started above the charts so to speak until everything just went dark.” Lloyd said in an interview with KUAR News.

The group focused more on outdoor activities in 2020 to economically support the area. It mapped and posted Little Rock’s 1,200 miles of cycling trails, while also installing mountain bike trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park and Two Rivers Park.

“While Little Rock is the urban core, being the capital city of the state of Arkansas, we have a wealth of outdoor amenities here and so that served us and the state, quite frankly, very well as people were looking for things to do that were safe.” Lloyd said.

The Statehouse Convention Center along with the Robinson Center Music Hall and the River Market, which are managed by the organization, were awarded the international certification ‘Global Bio Risk Accreditation’ after capital improvements and sanitation. The annual report mentions that in-person events offer safety protocols to guarantee a safe environment for guests.

Lodging tax revenue grew about 48% last year and the prepared food tax increased 18%, the report said. The prepared food collections improved 4% over 2019, while lodging was 21% behind.

2021 had a total of 351 events at LRCVB managed facilities, which is a 135% increase from 2020. The facilities revenue was still $2.3 million behind 2019. Advertising & Promotion showed an increase of 23% in numbers over 2020.

“The citizens of Little Rock should be commended for supporting the local restaurant community the way that they have through this pandemic and we’re fortunate to have so many of them still standing and going strong.” Lloyd said.

According to the report, the group tried to shift its marketing focus on Black visitors, LGBTQ travelers, and cyclists. Those three niche markets helped the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau gain national attention for its effort to build community engagement.

“We helped three focus groups with local residents and some people who did not live in Little Rock and talked to them about what it meant to them as they traveled, and what was important to them.” Lloyd said.

Tourism is the number two economic driver for Arkansas and is responsible for nearly 25% of the state and local tax revenues, Lloyd explained. She said the pandemic was a huge hit for the state, but tourism is nurturing and the city is showing great numbers so far in 2022.

“The numbers are steadily increasing, so we were proud to see the numbers that we did in 2021 because I think that Little Rock overall fared fairly well considering the fact that we were in such a disastrous pandemic.”