Arkansas Tourism

Gretchen Hall
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Hospitality, travel, and tourism have been the hardest hit industries during COVID-19. Think restaurants, hotels, caterers, meeting facilities, trade shows and the cottage industries that support those businesses ranging from florists to event planners to lighting and banquet logistics companies.

Gretchen Hall, CEO of the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, views it as the business challenge of a lifetime and the end is nowhere in sight.

Planners of the Southwest Trail would like to use this former Rock Island Railroad overpass on West 7th Street in Little Rock, which is no longer in use. A Union Pacific train passes over an adjacent overpass on Sunday, August 2.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Seven years after a proposal was announced for a pedestrian and cycling trail linking Little Rock and Hot Springs, a key step toward creation of the Southwest Trail is underway. A virtual public hearing is taking place online through Aug. 26 allowing people to view the preferred alignment for the route, an interactive map, and offer comments on the project which has an estimated construction cost of $43 million.

Rock Island
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An $880,000 federal grant is being awarded to Pulaski County to build part of a pedestrian and bicycling path that will link Little Rock and Hot Springs. The Southwest Trail will mostly be constructed on two former railroad right-of-ways.

Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst speaking to reporters at a press conference Wednesday about the latest report on tourism in the state.
Talk Business

Stacy Hurst, the newly named secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, on Wednesday unveiled the latest economic report on how the tourism and hospitality industry fared in 2018.

Overall travel expenditures rose 4.4% from 2017 to 2018 with visitors spending $7.37 billion in Arkansas during the year. Hurst, who delivered her remarks at the Arkansas Hospitality Association’s annual convention in Little Rock, said the Natural State saw more than 32 million visitors last year.

Ernest Mettendorf / wikimedia commons

One of North Little Rock's most famous landmarks is being renovated. If all goes as planned at the Old Mill, water will flow over a 50-foot rock wall for the first time in over 70 years. Sandra Taylor Smith, director of the North Little Rock History Commission, hopes the new waterfall will help make the tourist attraction even more appealing.

"The big pond between where the waterfall is coming and the mill building sometimes would get very stagnant, so we were looking at solutions to try to keep that water moving and not be so stagnant," she said.

Federal Government Shutdown Central High National Park Service
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Two major tourist attractions in Little Rock are at least partly closed becuase of the partial shutdown of the federal government.

The Clinton Presidential Center said Saturday that temporary and permanent exhibits at the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum will be closed. A statement on the library and museum's website says National Archives facilities are closed due to the shutdown and websites are not being monitored or updated.

The center is located in Little Rock and is a top tourist attraction for Arkansas' capital city.

Elizabeth Eckford
National Park Service/ Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A bench now on display across from Little Rock’s Central High School commemorates one key moment from the school’s desegregation. It is a replica of one Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine sat on in 1957 after being kept from entering the school by national guardsmen.

Tuesday’s unveiling coincided with the 61st anniversary of the event.

Central High School’s Memory Project aims to encourage students to remember past events of the high school and to keep the memory of the Civil Rights Movement alive.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

The most recognizable signs of July in Arkansas are probably cookouts, fireworks, and red-white-and-blue everything. But, in downtown Little Rock, a sea of taekwondo instructors, students and their families have become an annual fixture of summer in the city. 

The American Taekwondo Association, which is headquartered in Little Rock, holds its World Expo at downtown's Statehouse Convention Center each year. The event is by far the largest tourist gathering in the city, with an estimated 20,000 visitors from around the world making the trip to Arkansas's capital city.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola unveils the city's first "digital citizen engagement" kiosk. It provides wifi service and allows people to learn about area events and businesses, get directions, and take selfies.
David Monteith / KUAR News

Making Little Rock a leader in technology is the goal of a new project in the downtown area, the city's mayor announced Monday.

Little Rock's first "digital citizen engagement" kiosk is now active outside the Statehouse Convention Center. In addition to being a wi-fi hotspot, the touch-screen kiosk allows passersby to preview area businesses and events, get directions, and take selfie photographs that are sent to their phones.

David Monteith / KUAR News

Little Rock’s Central High School is one of over 130 locations on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail that spans 14 states.

Lee Sentell, the director of the Alabama Tourism Department, has been a leader in developing the trail. Sentell spoke at the Clinton School of Public Service Monday.

“This is a process that started indirectly about 15 years ago,” said Sentell. “President Obama and the director of the National Park Service decided there needed to be more diversity in our national parks and in our nominations for World Heritage sites.”

Camels Converge On The Little Rock Zoo

Mar 8, 2018

A trio of camels is now residing at the Little Rock Zoo. The one-humped dromedaries are on the younger side, at one-and-a-half years old. Susan Altrui says their arrival is part of a regular Spring swap.

“They came to us from a farm out of Oklahoma. We are borrowing them for the season and they are just adorable. Their names are June, Sally, and Stella. They’re just about one years old so they’ll be growing up with us here at the Little Rock Zoo and we’re thrilled to have them,” said Altrui. 

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Little Rock Central High School is now joining five other sites across the city as part of a national project highlighting historically significant locations in the civil rights era.

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail includes over 100 museums, churches, and other landmarks across 14 states and Washington, D.C. that played a role in the struggle for equal rights for African-Americans in the 1950s and 60s.

Pinnacle Mountain Gets New Park Superintendent

Oct 31, 2017
Pinnacle Mountain State Park
File Photo

There’s a new superintendent at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Josh Jeffers was named to the post on Monday, which administers more than 2,300 acres of wetlands, prairies, forests, and of course – Pinnacle Mountain. Jeffers says he intends to focus his energies on attracting youth from diverse backgrounds in Little Rock schools.

A sunken ship may turn into a tourist site in eastern Arkansas. A paddle wheel steamboat called the Sultana caught fire in 1865, just days after the end of the Civil War. Over 1,200 Union soldiers died, making it the biggest maritime disaster in U.S. history.

The ship's wreckage currently rests underneath a soybean field in Marion where the Mississippi River once ran. Project Director Louis Intres tells KATV-TV that plans are in progress to build a 10,000-square-foot, $3 million Sultana Disaster Museum.

The Cleveland County town of Kingsland is pinning its hopes of parlaying the birth of Johnny Cash there 83 years ago into tourism gold on an upcoming festival and carnival.

A committee known as Kickstart Kingsland, an off-shoot of Kickstart Cleveland County,  will next meet Friday, Aug. 11, to plan the event, tentatively scheduled for September 16th.

"They're trying to work up a little fundraising festival," Kingsland Mayor Charles Crain said, "have live music, get some local groups, and (have) some vendors in."

Cotham's Mercantile in Scott, Arkansas before it burned to the ground on May 30th.
Kat Robinson / Arkansas Times

The cause of the fire that destroyed an iconic, 100-year old Cotham's Restaurant has been left undetermined, with investigators closing the case. The Pulaski County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday there were "no signs of arson" and that all leads had been followed. Officials say the case is closed unless "further information is developed."

Stan Jones Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Following two years of interviews for the job, Governor Asa Hutchinson appointed Stan Jones to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Tuesday. Jones, a fifth-generation farmer and hunting lodge owner from Walnut Ridge, applauded previous efforts by the commission to promote the outdoors in Arkansas.

“I know we’ve got some difficult situations and issues that we’re going to have to face, but I’ve got a very positive look and attitude on everything, the Game & Fish [Commission] has done a good job, and I’m happy to be a part of it,” Jones said.

The state is poised to hand over control of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame to the city of Pine Bluff. A bill passed in the Arkansas House on Friday would transfer the operation from the state Department of Parks and Tourism to the city’s Advertising and Tourist Promotion Commission.

Update: The Department of Parks and Tourism provided KUAR with attendance figures for the Hall of Fame. It reveals a dramatic decline in recent years.

2017 – To date 2,675

2016 – 5,793

2015 – 7,125

2014 – 16,932

2013 – 21,102

Police say two suspects have been arrested for the August shooting death of a North Carolina woman at a gas station in North Little Rock.

Sgt. Brian Dedrick says the suspects were arrested about 7 a.m. Tuesday on first-degree murder warrants and are now jailed without bond. Court records do not show that either suspect has been formally charged.

The two are suspects in the Aug. 6 shooting of 39-year-old Amy Southern Ashley of Raleigh, North Carolina, at a gas station just off the Interstate 30 bridge in downtown North Little Rock.

Asa Hutchinson
Arkansas Times

Gov. Asa Hutchinson kicked off the annual Arkansas Hospitality Convention in Little Rock on Wednesday  by touting the impact the fast-growing tourism industry is having on the state's overall economic expansion.

Citing a recent U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report designating Arkansas as the nation’s economic leader during the first quarter, Hutchinson told convention-goers gathered at the Statehouse Convention Center that the tourism sector has also play a key role in recent job growth and low unemployment levels.

Secretary interior Sally jewell transportation secretary Anthony Foxx National Park Service Ranger Jodi Morris
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Two members of President Obama’s cabinet visited Little Rock Tuesday, getting a firsthand look at the historic Central High School. It was part of a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Almost 20,000 marshal-arts aficionados in their brightly colored uniforms have once again descended on downtown Little Rock for the 26th annual American Taekwondo Association World Expo. 

Jenny O'Conner of ATA International estimates up to 20 nations are represented at the organization's biggest event of the year, which includes the crowning of champions for the just concluded competition year and the opening competitions of the new year.

Governor Radio
Office of the Governor

The following is a transcript of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's radio column for the weekend of June 17, 2016:

Last Friday, I spent the evening with eight Central Arkansas families to celebrate National Great Outdoors Month. The event was part of a nationwide “Governor’s Capital Campout,” and Arkansas was one of 17 states to participate this year.

greencarreports.com

As Arkansas motorists count down the days to the Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of the summer driving season, pump prices are peaking at their highest level so far in 2016.

Gov.'s Radio Column: Queen Wilhelmina State Park

Apr 16, 2016
Gov. Hutchinson outdoors
Office of the Governor

The following is a transcript of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's radio column for the weekend of April 15, 2016:

  As governor, no day is typical. I work with the legislature, pursue economic development opportunities, listen to the concerns of citizens and meet people from every corner of the state. I love my job, but sometimes it’s nice to get out of the office and enjoy the Natural State.

Gov.'s Radio Column: Tourism In Arkansas

Mar 19, 2016
Governor Asa Hutchinson radio address
Office of the Governor

The following is a transcript of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's radio column for the weekend of March 18, 2016:

Earlier this week, I attended the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Springdale. I had the chance to talk about the growing strength and importance of our state’s tourism industry.

Governor's Conference on Tourism 2016
http://www.arkansas.com

Arkansas's second-largest industry continues to grow and become even stronger. That according to state leaders meeting at the annual Governor's Conference on Tourism.

The state's tourism revenue grew 7.7% last year.

According to the state Department of Parks and Tourism, 28 million visitors spent around $7.2 billion, and the Department says it predicts even better numbers for this year.

Great Arkansas Cleanup Keep Arkansas Beautiful
Keep Arkansas Beautiful

Spring cleaning isn’t just for our homes. March first is the beginning of the three-month Great Arkansas Cleanup, when volunteers will shake out the rugs for out-of-state visitors.

“It is absolutely essential for tourists to get a good impression of Arkansas when they come to visit,” said Liz Philpott, volunteer program manager for Keep Arkansas Beautiful, which is part of the state Department of Parks and Tourism.

Hot Springs Mountain Tower
www.hotspringstips.com

A new operator has been selected for the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.

The Sentinel-Record reports that Ortega National Park LLC of Santa Fe, New Mexico, will operate the tower through a subsidiary.

This will be the first time that the observation tower won't be operated by the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission.

Sandy Poole with the National Park Service's Midwest Regional Office says the transition of operations from the commission to Ortega will happen over the next few months and may be completed in early March.

Arkansas Governor Taps Staff To Head Parks & Tourism

Oct 22, 2015

The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism is getting its first new executive director in 25 years. Kane Webb was named to the post by Governor Asa Hutchinson on Thursday to succeed Richard Davies.

Webb is a former journalist and native Arkansan. He also comes straight from the governor’s office. Webb credits his background in communication and journalism as preparing him to promote the state’s destinations. The previous parks and tourism head also studied journalism before entering the department.

Pages