HARDY, AR (KAIT) - On Labor Day weekend many travelers are hitting the road North to the hills and lakes, which is welcome news for Arkansas tourism officials since tourism is down this year.
Hardy is the second-largest tourist town in Region 8, was this a good season or a bad season? There was a steady flow of campers and vehicles driving through town. But were they stopping and spending money? Apparently so.
Hardy collects an Advertising and Promotion, or A/P tax. It's more commonly known as the "Hamburger tax." But not every business pays it. Mayor Nina Thornton said it is very tourism specific.
"You know prepared foods like a restaurant etc. And then hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts things like that."
The tax collected is a good indicator of the flow of tourists through Hardy. I asked Mayor Thornton if revenue was up or down.
"Last year our income was around 92 Thousand and this year if it keeps going like it is we will be well over 100 Thousand dollars."
Like Mayor Thornton said it's places like Bob and Sandy's Original Beach Club Barbeque that contribute a lot of money to the A/P Tax. So I asked Sandy how has your tourist season been?
"We have seen an increase this year better than the last 2 years actually. It's getting back up to being like normal. The past 2 years has slowed down a lot but I think people were afraid to spend their money."
The restaurant is a family affair. Son Corey was slicing up ribs while daughter-in-law Ruby was making salads. Sandy says the economy is making people reconsider how they are spending their tourist dollars.
"I think they are staying closer. They are traveling Arkansas vs. going to other states."
And of course travelers need gas and groceries. In Highland I re-visited the Red Mule station. This was their first full summer since being open. Assistant Manager Kathy McComas said they had seen an increase in business overall not just in tourism.
"There are a lot of people who are just staying local to do their vacationing or they are just traveling in Arkansas or seeing family and friends cutting corners where they can."
It was an exciting summer one business owner told me. He was looking forward to a great fourth quarter. Sandy Gililand says they too will experience a change in clientele.
"After the holiday it will drop off for a little while. But then you see the older people start traveling more."
Hopefully the weather will provide cool temperatures and a great Fall color show to keep those tourist dollars rolling in.