April 2013 State Parks, Recreation & Travel Commission Summary
The following is a synopsis of the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission meeting held April 18, 2013 at Lindsey’s Resort in Heber Springs.For questions regarding this report, please contact Gloria Robins, executive assistant, at 501-682-7614. The next Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission meeting will be held in Marianna/Forrest City.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT
Executive Director Richard Davies gave a legislative update. He reported that Administrative Assistant Gloria Robins has combed through proposed legislation and found 588 rules that affect the Department of Parks and Tourism. He said they are working on behalf of the department and tourism industry to protect their interests.
For more information contact Gloria Robins at 501-682-7614.
Buffalo National River Update
Because of the federal sequester and agency budget cuts, the Buffalo National River management has decided to close some campgrounds and public restrooms, including restrooms at Ponca and Pruitt, two very popular access points. Commissioner Mike Mills proposed sending the Buffalo National River management a letter asking them to open the restrooms. Mills noted the irony in the national parks agency fighting the establishment of a farm of 6,500 hogs five miles from the river, and then making a poor management decision that puts 60,000 people on the river without restroom facilities. He has already observed toilet paper piles along the river access areas with people forced to relieve themselves in nature because of the bathroom closings. The commission passed a resolution forcefully opposing the closing of restrooms on the Buffalo National River for environmental and tourism reasons and strongly encouraging them to reconsider and fund the reopening the restrooms with copies of the resolution given to elected representatives and appropriate media in the state.
The commission also passed a motion to notify the BNR Parks Director Kevin Cheri that the letter will be sent and give him the opportunity to change the bathroom decision beforehand.
Japanese American Internment Museum Opening
Commissioner Cindy Smith reported on the new World War II Japanese American Internment Museum in McGehee. Two sites commemorate the internment of Japanese Americans in Arkansas during World War II – the new museum and the Rohwer Relocation Center National Historic Landmark, which includes informational kiosks.
George Takei, who play Lt. Hikaru Sulu on the original Star Trek television series, was the special guest at the opening event. Takei was interned as a young boy with his family at Rohwer.
Research and Information Services: Section Report
The Research & Information Services Section processed 8,583 requests for travel information during February 2013, a decrease of 22.9 percent from February 2012. The March total is 9,958, a 14.7 percent decrease from March 2012. The calendar year 2013 inquiry total is 25,451, a decrease of 13.9 percent over 2012.
There were 173 requests for retirement/relocation information in February, down 3.9 percent from February2012. The March total is 289, a 45.2 percent decrease from March 2012.January-March requests are 806, down 9.3 percent.
JoAnne Hinson reported that she and CJRW completed the spring focus group study to test spec advertising and Arkansas’s brand. The focus groups were in Dallas, Kansas City and Jackson. The report will be ready for the next commission meeting.
Hinson was a presenter at the Southeast Travel and Tourism Research Association Symposium in March. She said that travel trends reported at the symposium indicated visiting friends and relatives was the number one activity in all but four states that are part of the southeast travel group. Gaming was very important in Mississippi. Shopping was the number one activity for visitors in Arkansas.
Hinson also reported that the West Memphis Welcome Center will have its grand opening at 11:30 a.m. on May 28.
For more information contact Hinson at 501-324-1520.
Tourism Development: Section Report
Tourism Development Manager Donna Perrin reported the event collection period for the statewide Fall/Winter calendar of events is in progress. Deadline for event submissions to be included in the printed calendar is April 30, 2013. Fall/Winter date range is Sept. 1, 2013 through Feb. 28, 2014. The website for submitting events is www.Arkansas.com/submitevent.
She also reported that tourism staff met with the Arkansas Business Publishing Group editors and Joy Phillips of CJRW on March 18 to discuss the 14th edition of Living in Arkansas, the Department’s fulfillment piece for retirement/relocationinquiries.
Perrin said the 30th annual observation of National Tourism Week is scheduled for May 4-12. A letter will be sent from Tourism Director Joe David Rice via the Industry Insider mailing list encouraging communities to participate with local celebrations.The Tourism Week section on the Arkansas Industry Insider website serves as are source in helping plan for the week’s events. Included on the site are marketing ideas, key messages, fun facts, and other information such as the tourism economic reports. Gov. Mike Beebe’s proclamation declaring Tourism Week in Arkansas will be posted to this site when received. Information on Tourism Week events throughout the state is being compiled into a media release.
For more information,contact Perrin at 501-682-1926.
Communications: Section Report
Manager Kat Robinson reported that the section is working on several upcoming opportunities for incoming journalists to learn more about The Natural State. The first of these comes up next month with a group of 20 journalists from prime publications and media outlets covering fine art, crafts, food, African American issues and history through central and northwest Arkansas. This tour will be operated by Geiger and Associates, the same company utilized on the tour of the Arkansas Delta last October. The tour will take these journalists from Little Rock to Bentonville and will include performing arts, visual arts and handcrafts. Some of the publications included are Western Art & Architecture, American Craft, Wine Enthusiast and National Public Radio. The tour will be conducted May 8-12.
Robinson said that on May 21, the section will coordinate media representatives at an event on Greers Ferry,allowing journalists to collect information about the lake, the dam and the50th anniversary of the dam’s dedication by President John F. Kennedy ahead of this year’s Oct. 3 commemoration.
In June, the section will coordinate pre- and post-familiarization tours for the Society of American Travel Writers convention, which will be June 18-21 in Little Rock. Four pre-tours and two post-tours will send these writers with members of the Communication Section through different areas of the state.
For more information contact Robinson at 501-682-7606.
Group Travel: Section Report
Group travel Manager Renee Robison said her section’s comparison figures for inquiries of February2013 indicate 171 leads vs. 176 for February 2012. Inquiries for March 2013were 463 leads vs. 301 in March 2013. Leads were compiled from the partnership with GLAMER, Premier Tourism Marketing, Student Youth Travel Association and Arkansas.com. The remainder of the February leads was motorcycle inquiries generated from Arkansas.com with seven motorcycle inquiries requested due toads in Roadrunner Magazine and Wing World. Additional March leads, 39, came from Premier Tourism Marketing publications representing Leisure Group Travel,Group Travel Directory, Student Travel Planning Guide, Reunions workbook,Religious Travel Planning Guide and Ski & Ride. GLAMER generated 205 leads,and 54 others were attained at Travel South USA and Heritage Club, with the remainder from motorcycle inquiries.
Robison reported on the Travel South Showcase 2013, which was hosted in Little Rock on Feb. 17-20,2013. The Group Travel Section with assistance from the Communication Section coordinated pre-familiarization tours in three different regions of the state.Group Travel also partnered with Arkansas State Parks to provide lodging accommodations and meals during the pre-fam tours. Group Travel also met with numerous group travel operators and tourism partners during the showcase.
The Group Travel section hosted its spring summit at the Hot Springs Convention Center on March6 with 36 tourism industry leaders from across Arkansas in attendance. Robison said decisions were made concerning travel show sponsorships and input was gathered about motorcoach and motorcycle marketing.
Additionally, Robison has been coordinating details pertaining to the online wedding promotion campaign that has been set for May. The featured regions and participants are:Central Region – The Capital Hotel and Marlsgate Plantation; Delta Region –Fairfield Inn & Suites and The Sage Meadows Country Club; River Valley – LaQuinta Inn & Suites and The Barn at Twin Oaks; Ozarks – Best Western Inn of the Ozarks and Thorncrown Chapel; Timberlands – Union Square Quarters, and TheGranite Club; Ouachitas – Arlington Hotel Resort & Spa and Garvan Woodland Gardens.
Robison also reported on her trip to Rapid City, South Dakota to attend PEER Group 2013, a Heritage Clubs International event on Feb. 26-March 3. The tradeshow and appointments were held to give the 30 bank club directors new ideas for fall 2013 and beyond.
For more information,contact Robison at 501-682-1219.
Jonathon Eudy of Aristotle reported that Arkansas jumped to position #3 in the Hitwise custom category“All 50 State Tourism Sites” for the month and Texas has fallen to #12.Arkansas is also back to #1 in the “Contiguous State Tourism Sites” custom category and Texas has fallen to #3. Texas did pay for 76 percent of search traffic this month compared to 9 percent for Arkansas.
There were 189,558 total mobile visits to both the main website and the mobile website this month vs. 122,302 visits last March. Mobile visitors accounted for 775 Vacation Guide requests and 24 e-newsletter signups.
The new blog site launched Nov.1, 2012 at www.Arkansas.com/blog. There were 15,486 visits to the Travel Arkansas blog with over 51,991 total page views of content on the entire site.Visitors to the blog also accounted for 96 Visitor Guide requests and 8 e-newsletter signups.
There were 5,216 Vacation Kits requested online this month with 4,441 requests via desktop and 775 requests via mobile.
In production, Aristotle has worked with CJRW to support its Create Your Escape campaign. Eudy also reported that there have been 516 exits links year to date from Arkansas.com to the Natural State Golf Trail website. Aristotle is in the process of developing anew landing page for the golf trail. Also, a new landing page for weddings is in production, and a wedding contest will start soon on that page.
For more information contact Eudy at 501-374-4638.
Karen Mullikin of CJRW reported that the 2013 Summer Value Creative Campaign will take place in May and June, statewide and in several out-of-state markets. Tourism industry members can partner in radio spots again this year. The messaging highlights the diversity of things to see and do in Arkansas and emphasizing that everything is just a short drive away.
On April 5 the Create Your Escape campaign and contest launched and more than 400 people have gone in and created their trip. More than 8,500 people have visited the landing page to read about the campaign. The contest runs through May 8.
The 2013 Spring/Summer Campaign Media Tour is a 20 minute video that staff is taking on the road to present to civic clubs.
Mullikin also gave a Welcome to Arkansas update. A train the trainer's program curriculum has been established and this year there is a new Power Point presentation to support the individual trainers. Periodic blogs and e-newsletters go out as well with written and video tips about giving good customer service.
For more information contact Karen Mullikin at 501-975-7217.
Parks Summary – Apr 2013
The Arkansas State Parks internet budget was approved for FY 14 as presented by Aristotle Inc. For additional information contact Joe Jacobs or Joan Ellison at 501-682-6924.
The Arkansas State Park advertising budget was approved for FY 14 as presented by Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods. For additional information contact Joe Jacobs or Joan Ellison at 501-682-6924.
Certificates of appreciation in recognition of outstanding service and leadership were approved for upcoming retirements for three state park superintendents: Ron Gossage, Mark Roland and Wally Scherrey with over 115 years of collective service in Arkansas State Park (ASP). For additional information contact Jon Brown at 501-682-7639.
Jon Brown, Manger of Operations, presented an update on the ASP Energy Plan reporting ongoing energy savings projects, programs and improvements throughout the state park system. For additional information contact Jon Brown at 501-682-7639.
Andrea Murphy of Gentry, AR, found a 2.10 carat brown diamond at the Crater of Diamonds State Park during her 30th birthday celebration trip on April 6. The diamond has been named the Andrea Birthday Diamond. For additional information contact Margi Jenks Interpreter, Crater of Diamonds State Park at870-285-3113.
Asa result of the National Association for Interpretation Region 6 Workshop held in Manhattan, Kansas over February 24-27, 2013, ASP staff members were proud recipients of following awards:
§ Elizabeth Drake,Park Interpreter at Lake Dardanelle State Park and Rachel Dierson, Interpreter at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area (HSPCA) won 2012 Best Workshop Program.
§ Rachel Dierson,Park Interpreter at HSPCA, received the Dr. Richard Baldaulf 2012 Outstanding New Interpreter Award for an interpreter with less than five years of service in the profession.
§ Susan Adkins,Park Interpreter at Lake Ouachita State Park, received 2012 Program of the Year Award.
Congratulations to the winners and for the continued recognition of the quality of work taking place in ASP. For additional information contact Jay Miller at 501-682-2187.
Reported in April’s ABOUT magazine, ASP offered a geocache in celebration of the state parks system 75th anniversary. The activity was so popular caches were kept and now every state park has one on its property. Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt that combines Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation skills as well as insightful thinking. Geocaching is a great motivation to get the gaming/computer generation outside. For more information about geocaching go to www.arkansanstateparks.com.