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Arkansas's Budding Landscape

3/28/2014 8:51:00 AM

Greetings Industry Insiders!

Spring has sprung, and Arkansas is covered with budding flowers, green grass and singing birds. The Arkansas landscape is also blossoming with new growth, from a new Community Center in the works in Batesville to the Creative Corridor on Little Rock’s Main Street.

Read the latest industry news to learn about what spring has in store for Arkansans and what visitors and locals can expect from the turn of the season.


Joe David Rice

Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism Survey

Help us to bring success to future tourism industry functions! If you attended the 2014 Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Rogers March 9-11, please take a moment to complete our survey, available until Wednesday, April 2. Need a refresher course on the featured speakers and sessions? Visit our Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism Facebook page to review highlights reported during the event.

Do You Ride Arkansas?

The hot-off-the-presses Arkansas Motorcycle Guide features routes and attractions for the growing number of motorcyclists choosing to ride Arkansas. Call 1-800-NATURAL to receive your own copy. Can’t wait to get out and ride? Check out our video featuring footage from around the state and interviews with industry partners.

Farmers Markets Spread to Arkansas’s Urban Areas

Local vendors selling Arkansas-made goods and produce have expanded to cover more areas of the state, from North Little Rock’s Argenta Farmers Market to Bentonville’s farmers market.

The produce around the state has also expanded from peaches and tomatoes to meat products, including chicken, pork, lamb and turkey. In Fayetteville, the market will have musicians, street performers and face painters in addition to its 100 vendors.

Nicki Dallison, Farmers Market and Community Programs Manager at Downtown Bentonville Inc., attributes the market’s growth to Arkansas tourism, claiming tourists want Arkansas goods made by Arkansans. To read more, click here.

Batesville to Build $22 Million Community Center

Batesville is scheduled to build a community center to serve as a venue for sporting events and conventions.

The community center will feature three basketball courts, fitness and meeting rooms, indoor swimming pools, a walking and running track, a catering kitchen and an outdoor center which will include a “lazy river.”

City voters approved a one percent sales tax to fund the center and its maintenance. The center is scheduled to open in July 2015. Click here to read more.

Little Rock Main Street’s Creative Corridor is Well Underway

Little Rock’s Main Street is currently undergoing a facelift. The four blocks between Third and Seventh streets are being designated as the “creative corridor” where art, tech and cultural businesses, vendors and housing developments plan to relocate and participate in the multi-million dollar renovation project.

Among the additions to the creative corridor are K Lofts, a new hotel and Little Rock’s Tech Park.

Planners project that the work-live environment will attract start-ups, young people, visitors and an enhanced quality of life for the residents. Click here to read more.

Analysis Reveals Arkansans as Second-Highest Tippers

Our famous Southern hospitality has been proven! An analysis by payment service Square has discovered that Arkansans, when leaving a tip, give an average of 16.9 percent. This is 0.8 percent higher than the nation’s average of 16.1 percent and only 0.1 percent lower than Alaska’s average, the state claiming the number one spot. While the data for the study was comprised solely of credit card transactions which often tempt customers to tip more, the average tip is increasing gradually from 15 percent to 20 percent throughout the nation.

Springing Forward in Arkansas

3/20/2014 11:32:00 AM

Greetings Industry Insiders!

With the 40th Annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism under our belts and 70-degree temperatures in the forecast, we are springing forward into a bright season of tourism in Arkansas with new museums, galleries and speaker series on the way.

Read the latest industry news below to learn about the additions in Arkansas, as well as a few social media tips from Arkansas bluegrass musician Derrick Ball!


Joe David Rice

40th Annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism Wrap-Up

If you attended the 40th Annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Rogers March 9-11, 2014, please take a moment to fill out our short survey. Your participation in this questionnaire will help bring success to future tourism industry functions.

Photos of the conference are now posted to our Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism Facebook page. Take a look and tag the faces you know!

Three Arkansas Towns Featured on Garden & Gun Southern Towns Bracket

March Madness has a new meaning thanks to Garden & Gun Magazine. Thirty-two Southern towns are competing in the Greatest Southern Towns Bracket, including three of Arkansas’s own: Bentonville, Hot Springs, and Fayetteville. Support your favorite Arkansas town by voting here.

Marshals Museum Receives Grant from Rockefeller

The U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith received a $100,000 grant from Lisenne Rockefeller to fund a lecture series in the name of her late husband, Lt. Gov. Winthrop Paul Rockefeller.

The three-year Winthrop Paul Rockefeller Lecture Series will welcome speakers from governmental branches to speak about how the marshals’ history relates to each branch.

Lectures will be free and open to the public. The museum will make podcasts of the talks available to broadcast on social media and educational outlets.

The museum, located near downtown Fort Smith on the banks of the Arkansas River, is set to open in 2017, with a groundbreaking on September 24.

Amazeum Receives $1.5 Million from Walmart Foundation

The interactive Amazeum, set to open in 2015, received a grant from the Walmart Foundation of $1.5 million.

The grant will enable the museum to have a temporary gallery to display traveling exhibits, keeping it fresh and relevant. The Walmart Foundation has not yet chosen a name for the gallery, which will be on Northeast J Street near Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

The Amazeum has a capital campaign goal of $28.5 million. To date, the museum has raised approximately $20 million. Click here to read more.

Social Media Offers a Group Experience

Arkansas bluegrass musician Derrick Ball is a fan of social media and he often uses it to promote his band, Interstate Thirty. “What I love about bluegrass is that it’s a participatory group experience, and that’s a little like what you see in social media,” Ball says.

It may seem an unusual comparison, but it’s apt. In fact, there are some valuable social media lessons that brands or marketers can glean from bluegrass jam circles.

Ball provided a few simple tips about bluegrass circle participation that translate well to the social media world:

#1: “Go get your instrument” – When someone takes a seat in a circle jam, the other players want you to participate. They expect it. The same can be said for social media. Don’t pull up a chair if you’re not going to take part and offer something of value. If you join the social crowd, bring a distinct voice and, most importantly good, helpful content.

#2: “Find the right group” – Ball points out that bluegrass is sometimes clique-ish. When bluegrass circles form, the groups segment based on skill level, preferred style, and other factors. “You gravitate toward the group you know or a group that is playing what you like,” he says. In one respect, social media is one giant clique that brands desperately want to be a part of, but the social media world – like the real world – is full of different interests and personalities. Some people talk politics, others post about food. Some people love interacting with brands and some don’t. Before jumping in, get to know your target audiences well and pay attention to who is already “playing your song” (who is talking about your area of specialty or even your specific brand). Take time to find out where your music is being played – is your audience full of Facebook users? Twitter lovers? Pinterest fanatics?

#3: “Admire from afar until you’re ready or invited” - In a bluegrass circle, you’re expected to participate, but you’re also expected to follow some basic etiquette: Don’t “hog the jam” by not following the established sequence or getting out of tune with the other players; and don’t be too loud and drown out others. Ball explains that “it’s customary that everyone gets to express what they want to hear.” To sum up the lesson here for marketers: Listen. Pay close attention to what’s happening in social conversations and what people are sharing. When you and your brand appear on the scene, ask the community what they want or expect from you.

Henry Awards Presented at Governor's Conference on Tourism

3/12/2014 2:59:00 PM

Henry Awards Presented at Governor's Conference on Tourism

The annual Henry Awards Banquet took place on Tuesday evening, March 11, concluding the 40th annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism. The conference was March 9-11 in Rogers. The Henry Awards honor individuals and organizations which have made important contributions to the state’s tourism industry in the preceding year.

Richard W. Davies, executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, presided at the banquet and addressed more than 550 attendees concerning tourism issues in Arkansas. Miss Arkansas 2013 Amy Crain assisted in the presentation of the awards.

The Henry Award recipients for 2013 include:

Media Support Award: Paula Morell, North Little Rock

Bootstrap Award: Miller’s Mud Mill, Dumas

Arkansas Heritage Award: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

Grand Old Classic Special Event Award: Frisco Festival, Rogers

Outstanding Volunteer Service Award: Twyla Gill Wright, Batesville

Community Tourism Development Award: Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Natural State Award: Grant County Museum, Sheridan

Tourism Special Achievement Award: Andy Thomas, Russellville

The highlight of the awards ceremony was the naming of Alice Walton of Bentonville as the Tourism Person of the Year. Also during the ceremonies, Ernest and Cathy Cunningham of Helena-West Helena were inducted into the Tourism Hall of Fame.

The Henry Awards have been a feature of the annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism since their debut in 1981. The awards are named for Henri de Tonti, founder of Arkansas Post in 1686 and who is often hailed as the first “Arkansas Traveler.”

For further information, contact Kristine Puckett or Jessica Ledbetter, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, 1 Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201. Phone: 501-682-5240.

March 9-11 Marks 40th Meeting of Arkansas Governor's Conference on Tourism

3/6/2014 5:08:00 PM

March 9-11 Marks 40th Meeting of Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Song of Arkansas winner and runner-up to perform

Make plans to attend the 40th annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism, to be held at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers March 9-11.

Among this year’s speakers – actor, producer and travel writer Andrew McCarthy; wayfinding expert Jan Carpman; former Hard Rock International motivator Jim Knight; Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane; tourism trends specialist Lynette Xanders; professional media relations liaison Debbie Geiger; social media expert Crystal Washington; Arkansas Highway and Transportation director Scott Bennett; and University of Arkansas Head Football Coach Bret Bielema.

The annual gathering of more than 500 members of Arkansas’s tourism industry offers sessions in a variety of topics ranging from better practices in bringing travelers to Arkansas, refining a social media image and creating a storytelling experience for communities and attractions.

The presentation of the upcoming state tourism media marketing campaign will also be shared.

The winner of the Song of Arkansas contest, singer Barrett Baber, will perform Monday afternoon in a special presentation. The song he co-wrote with Kenny Lamb, “A.R.K.A.N.S.A.S. (Get There From Here)” took the top spot in the contest. The first runner-up, Blane Howard, will be on hand at lunch Monday to perform “Arkansas Y’all.”

Due to last minute personal reasons, Joe Nichols will be unable to attend this year’s Governor’s Conference as previously planned. However, he has been kind enough to provide an exciting item for the Monday evening Arkansas Tourism Development Foundation auction. Other items up for bid include:

  • A Serenity Spa Package valued at $559 from Eureka Springs’ Basin Park Hotel
  • A $700 Stay and Play Getaway provided by the Bella Vista Property Owner’s Association
  • A $660 Buffalo National River package from Buffalo Camping and Canoeing
  • A $1500 “Live The Suite Life” two night pampering package from the Embassy Suites Rogers
  • Three live Japanese maple trees from Garvan Woodland Gardens
  • An Arkansas chef-prepared private dinner for eight worth $1500
  • An “Extraordinary Escape” package from Eureka Springs valued at $1150
  • A golf outing at Holiday Island for 12
  • A chicken coop from the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotions Committee
  • A 12 pound ham from the Big Springs Trading Company at St. Joe

Additionally, all tips collected at beverage stations during the auction will go to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute/Breast Cancer Research Project.

The theme of this year’s event, “Creating Partnerships, Building Business” emphasizes the need for cooperation and coordination within Arkansas’s tourism industry to bring more guests into the state.

Tickets for the event are still available online at For question, contact Erik Holbrooks at 501-682-1088 or email

Discounted Early Registration Rate for 2014 Governor's Conference Extended to February 28

2/21/2014 9:30:00 AM

Greetings Industry Insiders!

What a great Governor’s Conference we have planned! It’s time to reserve your space at Arkansas’s premier tourism event. Registration is open for the 40th Annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism, which will be held at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers. This year’s conference will shine a spotlight on the hottest topics in our industry, including marketing, storytelling, wayfinding and the art of social media.

This year’s event will be bigger and better than ever. We’ve got some top notch speakers including actor, producer and travel writer Andrew McCarthy. Lynette Xanders’ insights into numbers and research will give us some clear ideas on where we’re going and what we should be doing to bring more visitors to The Natural State. Jim Knight of Hard Rock Café fame will share how we can really rock our worlds with service and culture.

You’ll be able to learn about making social media viral with Crystal Washington and the importance of telling the stories of a community with our local experts. And Jan Carpman will help us find the way to better signage and waymarking to get people to our great attractions. Arkansas Razorback Head Football Coach Bielema will share what it’s like being a new transplant to the state.

Register online today! Early registration ends Friday, February 28, so time is limited. Don’t forget to register at your preferred hotel as well.

You’ll also be able to bid on numerous items at the Arkansas Tourism Development Foundation Auction, including a dinner with country music star and Rogers native, Joe Nichols.

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