August 6, 2011 by Sue Madison
By Senator Sue Madison (D) District 7
LITTLE ROCK – Tourism’s contribution to the Arkansas economy increased about 1.4 percent last year, from $5.38 billion to $5.45 billion.
The number of visitors to the state actually went down slightly, but their spending was up.
Industries that cater to travelers employed more than 58,000 Arkansans and paid $1 billion in salaries.
Based on surveys, Texas ranked highest as a state of origin for visitors. Missouri was second, followed by Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi. Garland County was the top destination, followed by Pulaski, Carroll, Benton and Fulton Counties.
The state Parks and Tourism Department has identified these top urban markets for visitors to Arkansas: Dallas/Fort Worth, Memphis, Shreveport, Springfield and Tulsa.
For years the tourism department has bought television spots in those markets, both on broadcast networks and cable stations. Also, it places ads for Arkansas tourist destinations in magazines like Southern Living, Texas Monthly and AAA Southern Traveler.
Newspaper inserts that promote Arkansas tourism go into daily and weekly papers in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and Memphis.
In the past few years the department consistently worked to improve its web site and has increased online advertising on mass sites such as Yahoo and Facebook. It also places online ads on “niche” sites such as Field & Stream, iExplore and Motorcycle.com.
For several years the Parks and Tourism Department has relied on social media such as Facebook and Twitter to guide Internet users to its website.
The department’s media strategy targets adults aged 25-54 with a focus on women and families with children. A secondary target group is adults over the age of 50 with an emphasis on women.
Niche markets abound. We offer destinations of interest to naturalists and birdwatchers, Civil War buffs, antique collectors, motorcyclists, people interested in the civil rights movement, hunters, fishermen, outdoors enthusiasts, sports fans, people on church retreats, art aficionados and music lovers.
A 2 percent sales tax on tourist-related items pays for advertising campaigns that promote Arkansas as a tourist destination. Revenue from the tourism tax increased by 1.1 percent last year to about $11.5 million.
If you have any questions or comments about legislative issues, please call me at 479-442-2997.