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Tourism Is Big Business In The Natural State.

WITH 600,000 ACRES OF lakes, 9,700 miles of streams VT and rivers, and 2.4 million acres of national forests, Arkansas has become well-known for its scenic beauty -- probably no surprise to anyone who has traveled The Natural State recently. That scenic beauty, along with the variety. of activities we have to offer, has established Arkansas as an attractive vacation destination for people from Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and all across the Midwest.

Unfortunately, thinking of tourism as an "industry" is still a stretch for some Arkansans, in spite of the fact that it ranks as one of the three largest industries in the state and contributes significantly: to the economy of Arkansas. Tourism has become big business -- over 20 million travelers spent nearly $4 billion in The Natural State this past year.

In spite of incredible competition from our neighboring states, Arkansas tourism experienced significant growth during 2000. The tourism tax collected on hotels, campground rentals, marinas and other tourism related businesses fund the state's advertising and promotional efforts increased 9.3 percent over 1999.

New product development throughout the state offers more good news for the future of Arkansas tourism. With support from the one-eighth cent conservation tax, our Arkansas State Parks are undergoing a $180 million renovation and revitalization program which includes many improvements and new facilities. New attractions like Magic Springs/Crystal Falls Theme Park in Hot Springs and the recently renovated Fort Smith National Historic Site are already-contributing to the state's economy. Additionally, developments such as Fayetteville's Dickson Street entertainment district, the Historic Arkansas Museum (formerly the Arkansas Territorial. Restoration) in Little Rock and Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs are nearing completion.

This week, approximately 600 members of the state's tourism industry will meet in Little Rock for the 27th Annual Governor's Conference on Tourism. While we plan to celebrate the success of 2000, we know there are still great challenges we must face in the future in order to continue growing as a vacation destination..

Tourism is an industry that benefits all Arkansans by making positive contributions to the economy of the state, and we are proud to be associated with such a significant business.

Wade Williams is the 2001 chairman of the State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission and an attorney at Holiday Island near Eureka Springs.
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Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Mar 19, 2001
Previous Article:Parks and Tourism Revives 'See Arkansas First' Campaign.

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