Thursday, July 15, 2010

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

LITTLE ROCK – In spite of a decline in revenue last year, the Arkansas tourism industry has grown at an average rate of 5 percent a year since 1990.

Arkansas tourism revenues were down by 3.6 percent last year. We did not lose our standing in the national tourist market because so many other states had even worse years because of the severe economic downturn.

The growth of the Arkansas hospitality industry is measured by the state tourism tax, which is a 2 percent levy on hotels, boat rentals, amusements and other goods that are predominately for tourists. Last year the tax generated $11.6 million, down from almost $12 million in 2008.

Revenue from the tax pays for advertising and promotion of the Arkansas tourism industry. Even though the state Parks and Tourism Department had to slightly scale back its marketing efforts, Arkansas fared better than numerous other states that were forced to make drastic cutbacks in marketing.

June, July and August are the most popular months for tourist related activities, based on collections of the tourism tax. Almost $1.3 million was collected last June. That was twice as much tourist activity as we had in December, the slowest month.

The state hires a marketing consultant to research the effectiveness of Arkansas tourism ads and identify markets where advertising dollars are best spent. For example, in the past few years Arkansas has dramatically enhanced its Internet presence. The Department has improved its web page to make it easier for people to locate places of interest, to link to specific destinations and to book reservations.

About four in 10 vacationers in Arkansas used the Internet to plan their trip. Their average stay in Arkansas was 2.8 nights. The average size of the travel party was 2.7 and two of them were adults. Their average age was 43 or 44 years old and they spent an average of $178 a day.

About 72 percent of visitors to Arkansas tourism destinations come from out of state. The most came from Texas and the other leading states were Missouri, Oklahoma, California, Tennessee, Illinois and Louisiana.

The overwhelming majority of visitors drive to Arkansas in a car, a truck or an RV. Only 10 percent fly into the state. Once they arrive here, two-thirds stay at hotels or other commercial accommodations and one third stay with family or friends.

The Parks and Tourism Department has expanded its marketing beyond the traditional methods of placing ads in newspapers, magazines and television stations. It puts ads on the Internet, in cinemas and on cable TV networks, including channels that offer video on demand. Commercials for Arkansas tourist destinations are placed in what is called "Checkout TV." Those are the television monitors inside large retail stores.

The marketing strategy has evolved from the days when we only emphasized the state's natural beauty and its many opportunities for camping, boating, fishing and hunting. More recent ad campaigns also emphasize shopping, fine dining, music, the arts and historic sites.

The 2010 ad campaign is based on the concept of a road trip within the state. Market research has shown that visitors who spend the most money in Arkansas are on a touring trip, during which they visit several spots on their way to a specific destination.

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