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January 2015 Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission Summary

The following is a synopsis of the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission meeting held Jan. 15 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fayetteville. For questions regarding this report, please contact Gloria Robins, executive assistant, at 501-682-7614. 


Richard Davies said a bill has been introduced that ends commissioners’ emeritus status for the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission. He also voiced that state law requires the commission to approve its per diem each year. The commission voted to retain its 2014 per diem rates for 2015.

The commission officially approved the meeting dates announced at the last commission meeting. The Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission meeting schedule for 2015 is: Jan. 15 in Fayetteville; Feb. 19 in Hot Springs; Governor’s Conference on Tourism in March in Texarkana March 8-10; April 16 in Little Rock; May 21 in Harrison; June 18 at Delta Resort in McGehee; July 16 at Queen Wilhelmina; Aug. 20-21 at DeGray State Park including the staff appreciation dinner and service awards; September in Little Rock in conjunction with the Arkansas Hospitality Association Trade Show 16-17; Oct. 15 in Fort Smith; and Nov. 19 in Eureka Springs.

For more information contact Gloria Robins at 501-682-7614.


Tourism Director Joe David Rice reported that Arkansas law now requires that the advertising agency contract be reviewed annually. He explained that there are two options: 1) to solicit proposals from interested agencies; or 2) to extend the existing contract with the Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods organization. 

If option 1 is pursued, the first step would be to distribute an RFP to prospective agencies, screen the responses, and invite the top candidates to submit proposals for the contract. Next, a series of presentations would be scheduled prior to the end of this fiscal year – after which the commission would announce its selection. 

Based on several reasons, the staff recommendation is option 2: to extend the contract with 
CJRW for another year. The commission voted to extend the contract.

Rice also presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Marilyn Heifner, who is retiring in mid-February after 23 years as executive director of the Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau. He announced the new hire of Ron Maxwell to the deputy tourism director position. 

Research and Information Services: Section Report 

The Research & Information Services Section processed 12,771 requests for travel information during October 2014, an increase of 2.44% from October 2013. The calendar year 2014 inquiry total is 130,271, up 16.4% from 2013. The rise in inquiries is partially due to better reporting practices such as reporting Bing CPC, and more accurate track of literature requests out of the Little Rock Welcome Center. 

There were 730 requests for retirement/relocation information in October, up 15.3% from October 2013. This is due to changes in ordering patterns through the year. The retirement/relocation calendar year inquiry total is 5,018, up 0.7% from calendar year 2013.

Jennifer Neubauer reported that Americans are spending 8 percent more on leisure travel and 5 percent more per trip in 2015 compared to 2014.Millennial leisure travel has seen an increase of 6 percent. Neubauer said future reports will be framed different, starting with a Decision Funnel, followed by statistics regarding tourism marketing Awareness, Consideration, Booking, Experience and Engagement.

Welcome Centers 

Tiffany Knox reported construction will begin soon on the replacement of the Harrison and Red River Welcome Centers. Both new centers will be rebuilt in their current locations.

Knox and Adam Davis are currently developing a Facebook training session for the Welcome Center Managers. After training has been completed, the centers will be responsible for posting their own pages. The training will include Elizabeth Michael from CJRW and members of the Tourism Communications section.

Knox also reported that the spring Welcome Center familiarization tour is tentatively scheduled for April 20-24, 2015. The group will tour the Northwest Arkansas and Western Arkansas Mountain Frontier regions. The fall Welcome Center familiarization tour is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 21-25, 2015. The group will tour the Heart of Arkansas and Greers Ferry/Little Red River regions.

For the first time, the Holiday Hog joined the fun as Arkansas transformed into a winter wonderland beginning the week of Thanksgiving, all through the Christmas season and into the New Year.   
The Holiday Hog finally received his name – Jingle. Knox took on the responsibility of coordinating, scheduling and staffing the Holiday Hog appearances around the state. The Holiday Hog visited communities where requested. Two teams worked these events simultaneously with one person wearing the costume and the other acting as the companion and point of contact. 

For more information call 501-324-1520.

Communications: Section Report

The end of 2014 was a productive time for the Communications Section as it completed end-of-the-year projects and helped promote the Arkansas Holiday Trial of Lights via print and television media across the state. As always, the Section corresponded with a range of media outlets requesting Arkansas information; in January, the Section will help coordinate two media visits. The team also welcomes Casey Crocker as the new multimedia specialist.  

Working with Aristotle, the staff continues to prepare for the launch of the new website. The Section has also worked closely with CJRW on the completion of the 2015 Tour Guide, 2015 Adventure Guide, 2015 Motorcycling Guide, and the new wedding publication, A Natural State of Bliss.

For more information, call Leah DiPietro at 501-682-7606.

Tourism Development: Section Report

All Arkansas Regional Tourist Associations met the monthly compliance deadlines for November and December reports with the exception of Arkansas’ South for December.

A reminder was sent to regional contacts for Dec. 19 mid-year close; all projects on the region budgets must be accounted for and reported to Tourism Development. All but one region submitted reports by the deadline. Arkansas’ South has not provided December monthly or mid-year reports. At year-end, regions were audited to ensure they were adhering to the meeting requirements in their bylaws. Western Arkansas’ Mountain Frontier is the only region out of compliance, having not held its annual membership meeting required by its bylaws to be held in October. The annual meeting is scheduled for Jan. 29, 2015. Kristine Puckett reviewed the documents and minutes submitted by each association. Additionally, the Tourism Development staff prepared, reviewed, and approved a number of requests for grant payments and projects.

The December media release announcing Henry Award finalists was delivered to the Communications Section for distribution and was posted to and and The finalists for the Henry Awards have been notified by mail. Program production is in progress. Puckett is scheduling video interviews for the Hall of Fame and Tourism Person of the Year recipients.

The section also recorded the 13th installment of the Hospitality Hot Tips videos to be featured on the Hospitality Hot Tips blog –

For more information, contact Puckett at 501-682-1926.

Group Travel: Section Report

Group Travel comparison figures for inquiries generated through December 2014 YTD indicate 2,436 leads vs. 1,716 leads generated December 2013 YTD. Group Travel received 303 new inquiries in December 2014. These leads were generated from 250 magazine requests and 53 requests from Travel South International Showcase.

Trade Shows & FAM Tours 
Tracy Morales attended Travel South International Showcase Dec. 1-4, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Joe David Rice, Tourism Director, and Kimberly Torres, Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, also represented Arkansas during this three-day show focusing on the international market. Tracy participated in 40 pre-scheduled appointments with buyers interested in moving business into the southern states. Three international buyers have attended the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena.

Tracy Morales led 13 Tour Leaders (from Italy, France, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, England and Australia) on the Arkansas Greats with a Splash of Memphis FAM Tour Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 through Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014.

For more information, contact Morales at 501-682-1219.

Internet-related Items


According to Aristotle’s report, total organic search accounted for 74 percent of all traffic to in December 2014. Organic search traffic increased 15 percent, driving 230,006 sessions vs. 200, 686 in December 2013. Aristotle keyword buys (pay-per-click) drove 25,670 clicks to the site and accounted for the following conversions:  3,109 sale leads (ALD exit links), 342 vacation kits, 51 deal conversions, 28 fishing guides, 13 relocation guides, 12 e-news signups and more.

There were 173,166 total tablet/mobile device visits (56% of total traffic) to both the main website and the mobile website this month vs. 140,438 visits last December (47% of total traffic). Mobile/tablet traffic has increased 23% compared to last December.

In December, there were 1,273 reads of the new online Arkansas Motorcycling Guide with readers spending 4:00 minutes on the guide. The Motorcycling landing page had 1,447 sessions and 324 requests for the online Motorcycling Guide.

There were 1,709 requests online for the printed Vacation Kit compared to 1,820 last December. Traffic to the Travel Arkansas Blog reached 9,488 sessions this month with over 24,000 total page views of content on the entire site. Top article was “Info on Winter Road Conditions at’” which had 459 total page views followed by “Arkansas Products Make Great Holiday Gifts” with 282 total page views. 

The “Mama Max’s Diner – Creamed Corn Recipe – Soul Food Cooking” was the most watched video on YouTube with 1,773 views. Drilling down on YouTube demographics from Jan-Dec 2014, 65% of all video viewers were male with Texas sending the most views at 96,087, followed by Arkansas with 51,244 views and Illinois with 39,065. ranked # 9 in the Hitwise custom category “All 50 State Tourism Sites” Hawaii, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas and Colorado. Source: Hitwise. 

For more information, call 501-374-4638.


CJRW presented its State of the Media Report, a compendium of research and information from around the media world and CJRW that provides an overview of trends in advertising and media usage, as well as predictions for the future. The report laid out statistics regarding traditional and non-traditional media.

The report states that digital media use continues to grow. “Mobile is driving digital growth and will control 56 percent of time spent with digital by the end of 2014.” Traditional media still controls the majority of consumer media time,” according to the report. “However, that will undoubtedly change in the near future, as digital will undoubtedly surpass traditional media at some point.” 

For the coming year, CJRW recommends tailoring the media mix for each and every plan, using the most effective media to reach the specific target audience in question. “A more mature target audience may call for a stronger level of traditional media support, while also including digital. A younger target audience may call for stronger levels of digital media support, as well as traditional media. The bottom line is that you need a mix of both traditional and digital media support these days to effectively reach just about any target audience. The target audience and product in question will dictate what that should be.”

For more information, call 501-975-7217.


The State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission approved a $9.8 million FY 16 grant request to the Arkansas Natural & Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) for state parks renovation and capital improvement projects.  The application will be submitted to ANCRC by March 1, 2015.  For additional information contact Randy Roberson at 501-682-1633.