Collections for the Arkansas tourism trust fund continue their steady increase, according to a report given to the Arkansas Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission. Collections for the 2% tourism tax for July were $1.656 million, up 14.83% compared to the same month in 2014.
Year to date collections are up 7.85%
The tourism trust fund tax is usually considered one of the most reliable indicators of the health tourism industry. The 2% tax on hotels and an assortment of other hospitality services is used as the measure for how many people are traveling in Arkansas.
“What’s the opposite of a perfect storm? When things all line up for something good?” said Joe David Rice, tourism director for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. “We’ve had any number of things all line up in our favor this year.”
Rice cited good weather and low gas prices as obvious boosts in state travel. He also said markets that typically send Arkansas travelers, like Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Houston and Austin are experiencing growth and remained affluent.
In addition, he said the department is able to use research to target marketing campaigns to reach travelers most likely to vacation in Arkansas.
“We spend a great deal of time and resources getting the right message to the right market for the right traveler to influence their decision.”
The Central Arkansas region (Faulkner, Lonoke, Prairie, Pulaski and Saline counties) continues to lead the state in collections overall with $421,336 in July, a 13.5% increase for the month. The Northwest Arkansas region (Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington counties) collected $345,033, an increase of 15.09%, and the Diamond Lakes region (Clark, Garland, Hot Spring, Montgomery and Pike) collected $274,621, an increase of 21.58% over July 2015.
The top five counties in July were perennial producers Pulaski, Garland, Benton, Carroll and Washington. That also tracks with the growth in new attractions. The Amazeum opened in Bentonville. Oaklawn’s expanded gaming in Hot Springs is bringing in new tourist dollars. Little Rock has been steadily increasing convention traffic.
Year to date, Central Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas and Diamond Lakes regions are also the top revenue collectors. The Northwest Arkansas region has seen the biggest growth of the three with a 20.31% increase over the first seven months of 2014. Diamond Lakes is tracking 15.15% ahead of the same time last year.