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Traveling Arkansas.

There's A Recession, But The Natural State's Tourism Sector Continues to Grow

While the country as a whole posted a marginal 4.1 percent increase in travel expenditures last year, expenditures in Arkansas increased 7.7 percent.

A record 16.3 million visitors passed through Arkansas in 1991.

"It was a good year for most people and a great year for other people," says Richard Davies, executive director of the state Department of Parks and Tourism. "If current indications hold true, 1992 is going to be even better."

Expenditures in Arkansas were $2.5 billion in 1991 and contributed $116 million in state taxes.

"Some people think tourism just happens, and to a certain extent that might be true," Davies says. "But because of increased competition from other states, people have a lot to choose from."

Davies attributes the state's tourism growth to increased funds for advertising and other promotions. A 2 percent gross receipt sales tax at hotels, motels, marinas and tourist attractions has been in effect since July 1989.

Davies says the 7.7 percent increase in 1991 tax collections from the previous year proves the industry is doing well -- at least in Arkansas.

"That is a real number," he says. "That number is a report card for how we're doing ... We have a barometer built in."

Public-Private Effort

In the tourism sector, there is cooperation between government agencies and private businesses. A joint marketing strategy allows dollars to be stretched further.

"We have a good working relationship," Davies says. "We're pooling resources and working together."

The travel industry employed 47,650 Arkansans and paid $446 million in wages and salaries in 1991, according to state figures.

"There are lots of businesses in this state dependent on tourism," Davies says. "There are counties whose No. 1 business is tourism because there's not much else there."

He says business travelers and recreational travelers are both important sources of revenue.

Two counties, Pulaski and Garland, dominated travel expenditure rankings in 1991. Pulaski County attracted $536 million in travel spending (21.8 percent of the state total), and Garland County totaled $261 million (10.6 percent of the state total).

Most of the promotional dollars are spent outside Arkansas in the central United States, although Davies gradually is expanding the number of areas in which the state advertises.
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Title Annotation:Selling Arkansas, part 1; tourist industry continues to grow despite the recession
Author:Fleisch, Shelley
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Apr 13, 1992
Previous Article:Competing for conventions.
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