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November 2014 Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission Summary


The following is a synopsis of the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission meeting held Nov. 19-20, 2014 at Mount Magazine State Park near Paris. For questions regarding this report, please contact Gloria Robins, executive assistant, at 501-682-7614.


EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT

Richard Davies stated Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson has appointed a transition team member to be assigned to Parks and Tourism.

Davies reported that the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame Board is interested in regaining fiscal authority for the Hall of Fame. He said that the Board once had fiscal control, but it was given to the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation, and Travel Commission several years ago. The Entertainers Hall of Fame has new board members and would like to change the bylaws and ask for support in taking the fiscal control back.

The January 2015 State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission meeting is scheduled for Fayetteville. The Commission meeting schedule for 2015 will be announced at a later date. For more information contact Gloria Robins at 501-682-7614.


TOURISM DIVISION


Research and Information Services: Section Report

Fulfillment

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.

Research
Brandy Flowers is processing questionnaires from the Spring/Summer Mail Conversion Study. The mail conversion study closed on Oct. 27. Analysis is complete on the 2014 Online Spring Summer Conversion study.

Jennifer Neubauer worked with Helena A&P to do an economic impact study of the King Biscuit Blues Festival. Brandy Flowers completed data entry for this project.

Neubauer attended the Travel and Tourism Research Association’s annual Marketing Outlook Forum: A Global Perspective from Oct. 20 to 22 in Atlanta, GA.

Welcome Centers

Tiffany Knox reported that Facebook pages have been set up for each Arkansas Welcome Center. CJRW is curating content and posts, reviewed and approved by Knox, and scheduled for a month at a time. She is also encouraging each Welcome Center manager to create content and post photos of day-to-day activity at their respective Welcome Centers.

October 2014 Welcome Center visitation was 76,098, down 1.3% over last October. Welcome Center calendar year visitation is 703,808, down 2.6% from calendar year 2013. Visitation to Welcome Centers excluding West Memphis decreased 1.5% over October 2013. Visitation to Welcome Centers YTD over 2013, excluding West Memphis, decreased 1.6%.

For more information, contact Jennifer Neubauer at 501-324-1520.


Communications: Section Report

The Communications Section has been hard at work making final edits on the 2015 guidebook, facilitating fall color media coverage and photo requests, and launching customized itineraries for the Holiday Trail of Lights.

The fall media tour coordinated by Geiger & Associates recently concluded and the department expects to see coverage from this tour in the next month. In addition, the new Arkansas Media Room has made its initial launch, with the full system scheduled to be up and running by mid-January, along with the newly re-designed Arkansas.com site. The Communications Section has been in close contact with Aristotle during this transition.

Staff writer Zoie Clift and communications assistant Mary Osteen were key in coordinating a successful visit to Arkansas by Italian cyclists writing for Ciclismo magazine, one of the most popular cycling magazines in Italy.

The section is now almost fully staffed; new Communications Manager Leah DiPietro came on board Oct. 27 and former multimedia specialist Casey Crocker will return to his position Jan. 5, 2015.

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


Tourism Development: Section Report

All but five of the Regional Tourist Associations met the monthly compliance deadline for October reports. Those delinquent were Arkansas’s South, Arkansas River Valley Tri-Peaks, Greers Ferry Lake/Little Red River, and Western Arkansas’s Mountain Frontier. As of report date, Ozark Mountain Region’s report has not been received. Kristine Puckett and Jessica Ledbetter reviewed the reports and minutes of each association.

Staff worked all month planning and finalizing the Oct. 30 Arkansas Retirement Symposium. ADPT partnered with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service to provide a day of educational programming and industry networking for more than 60 attendees.

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


Group Travel: Section Report

Inquiries

Group Travel comparison figures for inquiries generated through October 2014 YTD indicate 2,056 leads vs. 894 leads generated October 2013 YTD. Group Travel received 114 new inquiries in October. These leads were generated from 10 website requests, 77 magazine requests, two phone inquiries, one email request and 24 requests from the Small Market Meetings Conference.

Trade Shows & FAM Tours
Cheryl Ferguson attended Rejuvenate Oct. 28-31 in Atlanta, Georgia. Group Travel, the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau sponsored breakfast and presented the Barrett Baber video, A.R.K.A.N.S.A.S. This sponsorship also allowed for a brief overview of Arkansas.

Tracy Morales and Cheryl Ferguson represented the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism during the Boomers In Groups trade show Nov. 7-9 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Cheryl Ferguson led 23 Tour Leaders on the Magical Moments of Yesteryear FAM Tour Sunday, Nov. 9, through Tuesday, Nov. 11.

Morales attended the TEAMS Conference Nov. 10-14 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The following Arkansas Sports partners participated in this trade show and facilitated 60 sport- related appointments: David Russell, Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau; Marlo Priest, Fayetteville Visitors Bureau; Jennifer Snow, Bentonville Convention & Visitors Bureau; Rachel Earls-Shaw, Conway Convention & Visitors Bureau and Kalene Griffin, Bentonville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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


Internet-related Items

Insights

This year’s 539,776 visitor sessions in October were a five percent decrease over October 2013. However, year-to-date visitor sessions are up. Sales leads to partners at a little over 90,000 were down also, a 19 percent decrease over last October. Arkansas fell to the 8th most state visited tourism site, coming in behind Virginia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Alaska, North Carolina, Hawaii, and New Jersey, respectively.

Aristotle’s Marla Johnson reported that Arkansas’s decrease in web presence is a result of several factors. One element is that a very big diamond was found in October of 2013 at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, resulting in 11,098 visits to the website, a lot of press and higher social media visits.

Johnson explained that the traffic that comes to Arkansas.com is measured in value. Organic search is the main lead, resulting in 66 percent of the traffic. Paid search comes in at 10 percent of the visits with direct links also at 10 percent of visits. Online ad buys for fall was responsible for 6 percent of visits. Referral traffic, the kind that comes from articles like the one about Crater of Diamonds, was 5.9 percent. Traffic from social media was 1.2 percent and exact target, which is email marketing, was at 0.6 percent.

Tactics to improve Arkansas’s web presence include rolling out a redesigned website on Jan. 15. Several hundred terms will then be added to search engine optimization. With the website redesign, mobile traffic will see a more responsive design, more engaging content, and more of a focus on sales leads. Johnson also recommends a social media campaign promotion for the website redesign that will include Facebook and Google+ components, and a bigger keyword buy budget.

For more information, call 501-374-4638.


Marketing/Advertising

CJRW staff showed two videos. The first was about the Japanese Internment Camps located in Rohwer and Jerome, and the World War II Japanese American Internment Museum in McGehee. The museum exhibits provide a glimpse into the lives of nearly 17,000 Japanese Americans once interned at the two locations.

The second highlighted The Historic Dyess Colony: Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash in Dyess, the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center in Piggott, the Matilda and Karl Pfeiffer Museum and Study Center in Piggott, and the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum in Tyronza.

The videos will be used online, shared through social media, and can be used by industry partners. The commission voted to approve the videos and their use.

CJRW also showed a Trail of Holiday Lights video featuring the Holiday Hog. This year, Holiday Hog needs a name. People are being asked to post their suggestions for the friendly, festive mascot's name at Facebook.com/ArkansasStateTourism and on Instagram (@arkansas) with the hashtag #NameARHog.

Holiday Hog will visit several sites on the Trail of Holiday Lights, serving as parade grand marshal and posing for photos this holiday season. Those sites include: El Dorado on Nov. 20; Corning and Rogers on Nov. 29; Rogers and Texarkana on Dec. 1; Russellville and Jacksonville on Dec. 4; Dardanelle and Mena on Dec. 5; Fort Smith and Heber Springs on Dec. 6; Greenwood and Bull Shoals on Dec. 7; Newport on Dec. 11; Bentonville on Dec. 13; Benton on Dec. 13 and 16, and Paris on Dec. 20.

For more information, call 501-975-7217.

PARKS DIVISION

Arkansas State Parks (ASP) renewed the grant partnership program with the Arkansas Press Association for the coming year. Since 1988 the partnership program has promoted ASP through print media advertising. The partnership program promotes the diverse facilities, programs and activities of the state park system, inspiring Arkansas pride in the state park system and encouraging Arkansans to travel in state and visit other Arkansas travel destinations. For additional information, contact Joan Ellison at 501-682-6924.

The State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission approved winter TV (two) and radio (two) spots to promote visitation to Arkansas State Parks. The TV and radio spots will run on stations throughout Arkansas beginning December 1, 2014, in partnership with the Arkansas Broadcasters Association. For additional information, contact Joan Ellison at 501-682-6924.

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