Crittenden County receiving its share of Arkansas tourism dollars

Crittenden County receiving its share of Arkansas tourism dollars

State, region becoming travel destination for visitors

Travelers spent $204 million in Crittenden County in 2016 and tourism generates 2,000 jobs, according to a new report from Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism.

Marion Chamber of Commerce President Mike Demster shared excerpts from the state’s annual tourism report with the Advertising and Promotions Commission and pointed out that their money is being well spent to attract more visitors to the city.

“I want to thank you for the work you do because A& P has had a big impact on that,” Demster said.

Demster said statewide tourism spending in Arkansas has gone from about $1.5 billion in 1980 and now generates about $7.6 billion annually and is responsible for over 65,000 jobs. Over 2.9 million visitors made Arkansas a destination and spent about $261 per person.

The state defines a tourist as someone who travels more than 50 miles and spends at least one night.

And among the 12 tourism regions designated by the state, Crittenden County — which is part of Arkansas Delta Byways — saw the fourth highest amount of tourist spending in the state. The county received 848,642 visitors in 2016 and generated $3.7 million in local tax dollars.

Marion has a one cent tax on prepared foods which is used to promote the city and brings in about $200,000 a year.

The money has been used to promote the local barbecue festival Esperanza Bonanza, the Sultana Disaster Museum, welcome signs, maps, 5K runs, bike tours, and other events.

“That’s great for us when you can bring in outside dollars,” Demster said.

“And a lot of the projects you fund do exactly that.”

Other facts of interest:

• Two out of three visitors are from out of state.

• Top 5 states of visitor origin: Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Illinois.

• Top 3 countries of origin: Canada, Mexico, Germany.

• Average travel party size: 3.2 • Median age of travel party: 58.2 Demster said Marion is definitely seeing an uptick in visitors. The welcome center in Blytheville constantly

is running out of the city brochure, he said. Hotel occupancy in Marion

also is high and the city has two more under construction.

“Our hotels have good occupancy rates,” Demster said. “We’re a good place to stop because we are midway between the Gulf of Mexico and Canada, and a great place to stop before you take on Memphis.

“So I thought you might be interested in seeing this. And we will try to do what we can to track it on a city basis. But I would say that A& P commissions have had a significant impact.”

By Mark Randall