Until the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, travel to and in Arkansas increased in each recent year. Arkansas tourism officials have maintained marketing campaigns, which generally focus on major centers of population in nearby states, such as Dallas, Springfield, Chicago, Memphis, Kansas City and Tulsa. Data for 2020 is somewhat limited due to the year not being complete. There is no evidence in the public domain that numbers specific to travel among Arkansas residents within the state exist. The state focuses much of its marketing in larger cities that are located within driving distance to the state, suggesting that most visitors to Arkansas are residents of adjacent states.
- There were more than 32 million visitors to Arkansas in 2018, resulting in $7.37 billion in total travel expenditures.
- Data released by the Division of Arkansas Tourism showed tourist tax receipts resulted in collections of $408 million in state taxes and $161 million in local taxes.
- An Arkansas Tourism report explained “nearly 68,000 Arkansas jobs are directly related to the travel industry”, while the tourism and hospitality industry in its totality employs more than 100,000 workers. In fact, “The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 122,600 jobs in the sector in August, up from 118,800 in August 2018, and tied the record for employment first set in June.”
- The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau reported “More than 6.4 million people visited Pulaski County, accounting for 22 percent of the state’s total visitors in all 75 Arkansas counties.”
- Tourist staple Hot Springs received nearly 8 million visitors in 2018, and tourist to the destination spent an estimated $677 million.
- More than 36 million visitors traveled to the state of Arkansas in 2019. “Total travel expenditures were up 4.2% in 2019 throughout the state.”
- The number of visitors for 2019 represented an increase of 10.2% over 2018.
- Total travel expenditures were reported at $7.68 billion.
- The year’s travel revenues resulted in $429 million in state taxes and $169 million in local taxes.
- Almost 69,000 jobs were directly related to travel in the state for the year.
- Hot Springs recorded 1,467,153 visitors to its state park, a decrease of almost 50,000 from 2018.
- In 2019, Little Rock’s Pulaski County accounted for “25% of total travel expenditures in Arkansas, and 20% of the state’s total travel-related employment”, generating $1.8 Billion in travel related spending.
- Wallet Hub reported towards the beginning of the pandemic that travel to and in Arkansas was the least affected state among all US states and the District of Columbia. It also stated, “The share of consumer expenditures on travel in Arkansas is the third-lowest in the country, at just 2.8%, and the amount of travel spending per travel employee is also among the smallest nationwide.”
- Due to the pandemic, Arkansas based travel agents reported in August that most travel is domestic, but not necessarily in Arkansas. They list the panhandle beach locations in Florida as an oft requested destination. “Clients are less price-driven amidst the pandemic but more focused on safe areas.” “People are still traveling; they’re just doing it differently,” Mary Barrett of Bentonville said. “Instead of going on a cruise for their Christmas vacation, they might be driving to the beach.” Terry Jackson, franchise owner of Cruise Planners in Springdale, said her bookings had fallen about 50% for 2020, but many of her clients have rescheduled their trips instead of canceling.
- Arkansas Online reported central Arkansas hotels started to see an increase in occupancy by late July. “Numbers provided by the North Little Rock Visitors Bureau showed hotel occupancy dropping to 27.4% in April, similar to the rest of the state with 26.4% occupancy”, compared to 24.5% nationally. “In May and April, occupancy at hotels just sort of bottomed out,” said Scott Sudduth, vice president of tourism development at the North Little Rock Visitors Bureau. “Statistics provided by the North Little Rock Visitors Bureau showed a rise in occupancy to 43.2% in June. The state reached 42.1% occupancy during June.”
- By mid August, “Little Rock Hotel revenue is down 58%. Food tax collections were down more than 30% in April and May, but only down 9.6% in July. Convention and facilities cancellations have totaled 316 so far this year.”
- “President and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Gretchen Hall, said it could be 2023-2024 before the tourism industry is fully back to pre-pandemic levels. Back in April, Hall said 80 events had been canceled, and another 60 were postponed to later dates. By June, they had lost more than 214 events, resulting in a 23 million dollar economic impact. Now, they’re at 325 total event cancellations and a $36 million economic impact.“
- In March, it was reported that restaurant sales in Hot Springs were down over 80%.
- Arkansas state parks still report limitations and a few closings on their website.