The business of Fort Smith's heritage.
"More people are visiting the Fort Smith area, and those people are spending more money," Claude Legris, director of the Fort Smith Advertising & Promotion Commission, explained. "We think the increase in visitors and spending represents a nationwide trend toward travelers who plan their trips around cultural and heritage attractions and events."
Fort Smith historic attractions are appealing to the same audiences the History Channel attracts. And the History Channel reaches more than 86 million homes and key demographics for age and household income. It's no accident that the History Channel has prominently featured the Fort Smith National Historic Site on a number of occasions.
"Americans are fascinated by history," Legris said, "and Fort Smith is well positioned to capture the Lucrative market for heritage tourism." "The Historic/Cultural Traveler, 2003 Edition" reports that 118 million travelers during the past year included culture on their trip. In fact, the publication reports that 30 percent of historic and cultural travelers chose their destination based on a specific event or activity.
Not only is the population of heritage tourists growing, the amount of money spent by this category of visitors surpasses that of the average tourist. According to the 2001 Travel Industry Association of America study, cultural and heritage visitors stayed longer at their destinations and spent an average of $623 per trip, as compared with $457 for average U.S. tourists.
Legris notes that Fort Smith offers a variety of historic and cultural attractions. "Judge Isaac C. Parker wanted to 'economize' executions, so he asked his hangman to design gallows to accommodate more than one man at a time," he said. "The History Channel featured the judge and the invention in one of its programs--Wild West Tech, hosted by David Carradine. I'm told the 'Hanging Judge' episode is one of the networks most popular."
Judge Parker's gallows still stand at what is now the Fort Smith National Historic Site. Inside the one-time federal courthouse, a recent $4 million renovation has restored the judge's courtroom. Exhibits tell the story of a Lawless Indian Territory tamed by Judge Parker and a motley cast of characters who became deputized U.S. marshals.
In fact, Fort Smith is one of three finalists for a U.S. Marshals Museum. The facility would attract visitors from all over the world and would house artifacts and interactive displays designed to tell the story of the U.S. Marshals Service. A site selection committee for the nation's oldest law enforcement agency hopes to make a final decision sometime this summer.
Meanwhile, the summer months are busy for Miss Laura's Visitor Center--a museum and headquarters for the Fort Smith A&P. Until the mid-1950s, the building operated as a bordello, or "social club." Once visitors take the grand tour and pick up brochures about other attractions, they board a wheeled trolley that takes them on a driving tour of Fort Smith landmarks. The tour includes the National Historic Site, the Fort Smith Museum of History, the Fort Smith Trolley Museum, the Belle Grove Historic District, the childhood home of World War II hero William O. Darby and several other historic homes.
In addition, the region attracts a significant number of Civil War historians and reenactors. Massard Prairie Battlefield is among the best-preserved Civil War battle locations in the nation.
The business of heritage tourism continues to grow. In fact, the Fort Smith National Historic Site and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith provide a degree in historic interpretation. Graduates are prepared to work in historic sites and museums of all kinds--those run by private organizations, state parks and by the National Park Service. The UAFS program is the only one of its kind in the nation.
Fort Smith's past is playing a key rote in the region's future and is best summed up with the A&P Commission's slogan, "Where the New South Meets the Old West."
For more information about Fort Smith attractions, log on to www.fortsmith.org.
A&M Scenic Railway
Belle Grove Historic District
Classic Carriage Tours
Fort Smith Air Museum
Fort Smith Little Theatre
Fort Smith Museum of History
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Fort Smith Trolley Museum
Grand Slam Fun Center
Miss Laura's Visitor Center & Miss Laura's Players
The Darby House
U.S. National Cemetery
Vaughn-Schaap House (Art Center)
Heritage Tourism Study Data
* Of 92.7 million adult travelers who included a cultural event on their trip, 32 percent (29.6 million travelers) added extra time to their trip because of a cultural, arts, heritage or historic activity or event.
* Of the 29.6 million travelers who added time:
43 percent added part of one day
31 percent added one extra night
19 percent added two extra nights
7 percent added three or more extra nights because of this activity or event.
* Travelers who include cultural events are different from the typical U.S. traveler They are more likely to have:
Household incomes above $50,000 (46 percent versus 40 percent)
Completed college (33 percent versus 28 percent)
Source: Partners in Tourism and Travel Industry Association of America
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|Date:||May 2, 2005|
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