BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Travel and tourism pack a powerful economic punch in the United States.
The U.S. Travel Association estimates tourists generated $1.8 trillion in 2010, and one community has made a concerted effort to attract more visitors to its area.
The Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce recently hired a new tourism director, whose full-time job is to highlight local attractions and sell them to tourists.
Tami Meyer may only be one month into her new job as tourism director, but she has already worked to identify projects that not only benefit Batesville but all of Independence County.
"We've got some great plans ahead of us," Meyer said. "We want to bring a lot of things into Batesville, and we've got the people standing behind us to help us develop those."
The Batesville Chamber, the City of Batesville and Independence County jointly pay for her position, and Meyer has recruited residents to be part of a local tourism committee.
Crystal Johnson, the president and CEO of the Batesville Chamber, says this proactive approach will help make tourism a bigger economic impact in the area.
" One of (Meyer's) first duties and responsibilities will be going into the communities in Independence County and determing what are specifically natural assets and finding a common denominator and being able to package that and sell it to tourists," Johnson said.
Highlighting local attractions will then open the door to opportunities for growth, Johnson says.
Several large-scale projects are already under consideration. The Chamber has secured a grant to study Polk Bayou as an ecotourism destination. Johnson hopes to develop it into a floatable, navigable waterway that snakes around Batesville.
Completing that project would likely speed up the proposed redevelopment of Riverfront Park along the White River, which has been years in the making.
"It will take some grant writing, and it will take some investment," Johnson said. "But there are several strategic steps that we're working on now to develop that property."
The first step includes hiring Meyer, who would like to make residents more aware of capitalizing on the area's natural beauty.
"The more tourism, the better any business in the area will get," she noted.
Meyer will host a training session on May 29, where she will provide local hospitality workers with lists of activites or attractions that may interest visitors. She suggests it's the first step toward progress.