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Katie Beck, CEO of AHA, provides update on the tourism industry

Tourism at places like the Buffalo National River in north Arkansas would likely see a boost from the federal grant funding announced Monday.
Michael Hibblen
The Buffalo National River is one of the main attractions for tourist to Arkansas. The state has seen an increase in tourism in the past year.

In an interview with Talk Business & Politics, Katie Beck, CEO of the Arkansas Hospitality Association, provided an update on the state’s hospitality industry.

According to the Arkansas Tourism Ticker, collections of Arkansas’ 2% statewide tourism tax in January-June 2023 saw a nearly 9% increase compared with the same period in 2022. Beck said part of the reason for the increase is travel is rebounding.

“During the pandemic, it was one of the hardest hit. It went from 2019 record jobs numbers to 2020 an industry that was decimated. Coming back and surpassing those pre-pandemic jobs levels, it is huge for the industry,” she said.

After the pandemic, experience traveling has seen an increase. According to RegionDo, a travel planning agency, traveling is becoming more popular as consumers shift from spending their money on goods and instead on experiences. Beck said Arkansas is positioned to take advantage of this new trend in traveling.

“There’s so many destinations throughout the state from the Ouchitas in Mena, you’ve got Origami Sake and the Museum of Discovery. There’s so many great destinations that are providing that really experience the travel nature of it,” Beck said.

Beck said one of the challenges facing the hospitality industry is having enough staffing to handle the increased tourism. She said hospitality is the second biggest industry in the state.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.