INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Independence County saw a big spike in tourism dollars spent there, according to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism's 2017 report.
Officials with the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce said Friday that 2017 was the first year there was real, community-wide focus on tourism, which helped the industry bring in more than $50,000,000.
That's an increase of $5,115,660 over the previous year.
Independence County Tourism Director Kyle Christopher said that boost can be attributed to several things.
"Not just from the Chamber of Commerce, but the city of Batesville and the opening of the community center and aquatics park," Christopher said. "Over 180,000 people went through those doors in half a year. And then, of course, there's the Christmas light display that brought over 120,000 visitors."
He also said the revitalization of Main Street Batesville has attracted more people to the town.
Christopher said an increase in tourism is good for everyone in the area.
"What tourism brings to our community is dollars and then jobs," Christopher explained. "That's the most important thing and that is what we're here to do, to improve our community. More dollars coming in is going to eventually get down to everybody."
The report showed 527 travel-related jobs were added in the county in 2017.
Christopher thinks this momentum will only continue through this year with the recent development of their new tourism brand.
"We feel like we're finally open for business in a sense," Christopher said. "We've been kind of building the house in a way and now we're ready to really start welcoming guests and running with this."