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Big business ahead for state tourism?

CHARLES MCLEMORE, DIRector of research and information services at the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, envisions almost unlimited sources of tourism growth for Arkansas during Bill Clinton's presidency.

"Reporters are doing stories about Hope and Hot Springs, and hopefully that will get people to the state who are interested in things like that," McLemore says, referring to the two towns where Clinton spent his youth.

Many long-term effects of Clinton's presidency on Arkansas tourism are possible, McLemore says.

"If he's re-elected, eight to 10 years down the road his papers will be put in a library," McLemore says. "I don't know where that will be. But there are a lot of researchers and others who would travel to a presidential library. That will be an attraction on down the road for Arkansas, even if he serves only one term."

McLemore says that every year the department receives requests from many grade-school students coast-to-coast for "information on Arkansas for their social studies classes. But there has been quite a bit more interest this year, from students and their teachers.

"It might be years before some of those students finally visit Arkansas."

Tourism expenditures in Arkansas increased 7.7 percent in 1991 over 1990.

Travel and tourism expenditures were $2.5 billion in 1991, $1,048 for each of the record 16,259,000 visitors to Arkansas. The state attracted a per-day average of 44,545 visitors. Tourism accounted for $116 million in state taxes and $30 million in local taxes.

This year's increase over 1991 should again be about 8 percent, McLemore says.

But with a Clinton presidency, McLemore believes that tourism in Arkansas could increase by 16 percent, double the past two years.

Parks and Tourism buys advertising regionally and nationally. Several Arkansas cities such as Hot Springs, Little Rock and Eureka Springs also advertise extensively outside the state.

"But the national coverage that we're getting for free because of Gov. Clinton is by far more than anything we've spent on advertising," McLemore says.

Should Clinton choose to have his vacation retreat in Arkansas, the national coverage it would generate should attract thousands of new tourists to the state, McLemore says.

Against the Norm

Tourism nationwide is up only about 2 percent this year, McLemore says.

"Florida has been hurting, especially with the hurricane," he says. "California has been hurting in about everything. The Northeast ... has been hurting. So we've been doing quite a bit better than the nation as a whole."

Texas was again the No. 1 state supplying visitors to Arkansas' 12 tourist information centers last year, according to the Department of Parks and Tourism. Arkansas was second.

More vehicles visited the West Memphis tourist information center than any other Arkansas center.

Parks and Tourism determines the number of vehicles and visitors to each center by the tourists who stop at the center and request information. There is no way to account for vehicles or travelers that never stop at a tourist information center, McLemore says.

More than $536 million was spent in Pulaski County by tourists last year, a figure that topped the state's counties, according to preliminary estimates. Garland County was second with more than $260 million.

Pulaski County was also No. 1 in travel-generated employment with 10,373 tourism-related jobs.
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Title Annotation:Arkansas
Author:Smith, David (American novelist)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Nov 9, 1992
Words:546
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