The Natural State is the place to be

The Natural State is the place to be
Beatles on the Ridge in Walnut Ridge, Ark. (Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - It appears tourism is booming in the Natural State.

According to an article by Talk Business and Politics, thousands of people visit the Arkansas every year.

In Northeast Arkansas, Ernest Hemingway, The Beatles, and Mark Martin are a few of those attractions that draw visitors in.

State Tourism Director Jim Dailey said they are improving their utilization of social media.

Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum in Piggott, Arkansas.
Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum in Piggott, Arkansas. (Source: KAIT-TV)

“We are progressively getting better at using digital media and connecting with all those algorithms that Google and other use to identify and get feedback,” Dailey said. “And assure ourselves that we’re getting a return on our investment.”

Two major tourism regions in Northeast Arkansas are the Ozark Gateway and the Delta Byways regions. Communities are continuing to find ways to make the most of properties, artifacts, and events in history to pull in tourists looking for family experiences.

“For Arkansas, I think we are becoming more and more discovered,” Dailey said. “We’re seeing not just U.S. citizens, but foreign travelers that are looking to go to the places that are a little bit off the radar screen in the past. Places that have an authentic adventure experience. Hit on and you’ll be amazed at what’s out there.”

Executive Director of the Ozark Gateway region for tourism Cathy Drew oversees sightseeing destinations that range from six state parks, four 18-hole golf courses, Blanchard Springs Caverns, and the Ozark Folk Center.

There are also a large number of lakes, canoe streams, museums and shopping towns like Mountain View, Calico Rock and Cherokee Village.

“We rely on a combination of state and regional promotion,” Drew said. “As well as local efforts promoting festivals and everything else we have to offer.”

The eight-county region doesn’t produce a large amount of tourism tax revenue. However, the area from Newport to Mountain View to Pocahontas does its part.

“Tourism in our region is extremely important,” Drew said. “A festival or event can bring a large number of travelers to the area. They help put people in motels, restaurants and shops. This is a big impact on the local economy and helps everyone prosper.”

Last year, Arkansas’ tourism tax set a new record in overall collections. It brought in $16.428 million, which was a 3.34% increase from 2017. It was also the ninth year in a row for growth. 2019 has already brought in $4.134 million among 75 counties. This number is up 5.33% compared to the same time in 2018.

“We’re already seeing numbers that are higher this year than last year,” Dailey said. “In 2018, there were 30 million visitors, 66,000 jobs, and nearly a $8 billion economic impact. Visitors prime the pump for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Clinton Presidential Library, the Johnny Cash boyhood home, and the Murphy Arts District and on and on.”

Drew said despite the increase, tourism relies on constant attention, publicity and new attractions to keep people interested and returning.

“With any tourism area,” Drew said. “New attractions are always a dream and simply a little work keeping current destinations up to date is important. Curbside appeal is always vital to any community, and we are spreading the word about how important it is to make sure your community is working hard to make their towns appealing to prospective visitors.”

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