Welcome Center to Attract Tourists

February 14, 2006--Posted at 6:22 p.m. CST

CLAY COUNTY, AR-- Visitors fromMissouri traveling Highway 67 will get a brand new impression of the Natural State. That from a brand new welcome center. It's an initiative Arkansas hopes will attract more tourists and their dollars to the state.

To most travelers welcome centers are synonymous with bathroom breaks during a long road trip. But to the state of Arkansas welcome centers can serve as a tool to bring tourists to the area. It's a front door for the Natural State to say hello to visitors of this great state.

"This highway is a major corridor coming in from Missouri coming in from St. Louis. A heavily traveled road and it is a good place to catch people as they come into the state," said Glenn Bolick of the Arkansas Highway Department.

The brand new Arkansas Welcome Center is located on Highway 67 just across the Missouri line. The state of the art 2 million dollar facility is complete with 30 parking spots, and spots for several 18 wheelers and RV's.

"People are going to be able to come in here get on the internet, check their email, check the weather and get brochures about things to do in Arkansas," said Bolick.

This welcome center is one of four the state built to replace outdated ones and entice tourists to visit Arkansas.

"They are an important part of our economy, they represent 20 million visitors a year and 4 billion to our economy and we need to have the best front door for them," said Governor Mike Huckabee.

The welcome centers are a partnership between to the Arkansas Highway Department and Parks and Tourism Department. The state hopes this facility will entice tourists to do more than just pass through Arkansas.

"Many people who thought they were just going to stop maybe get information and drive through Arkansas doing nothing more than eating a meal now realize this is a destination and they will spend time here and money," said Governor Huckabee.

Newport, Arkansas has seen the benefits of having Highway 67 as a four lane highway through there. Now that Corning has a nice welcome center and Highway 67 running through it, is a four lane next?

"It really should be and could be. One of the things we have done is see more highway dollars but the defeat of the recent bond proposal really set us back. It's going to delay any long term ability to do a four lane," said Governor Huckabee.

According to Governor Huckabee the money that was set aside for highway work including the four lane expansion of Highway 67 will now have to be used for interstate and other road maintenance work around the state.