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Start Planning Now for Travel and Tourism Week May 2-10

4/15/2015 8:57:00 a.m.

Start Planning Now for Travel and Tourism Week May 2-10

Arkansas Tourism Week will be observed May 2-10 in conjunction with National Travel and Tourism Week. The annual observances allow the industry a chance to emphasize the economic impact of travel and tourism, as well as to show appreciation to the travelers who make it happen.

The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism encourages organizations and communities to join in the celebration. The week offers an excellent opportunity to host a hospitality appreciation event in your area. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Encourage local merchants to display Tourism Week messages on their marquees. The messages can welcome visitors or highlight the industry’s contribution to your community.
  • Have your mayor or other local elected officials declare a “City Tourism Day/Week” in a special ceremony.
  • Invite elected officials and other local VIPs to work a shift at the nearest welcome center greeting tourists and/or serving refreshments.
  • Suggest an article to local media about ways in which convention and conference facilities make your area a year-round destination.
  • Organize familiarization tours for local tourism industry volunteers and front line staff.

For more ideas, or for tourism statistics and fun facts, visit

Your group may come up with some of your own great ideas; please share them! Let us know your organization or community plans for National Tourism Week and we will publish them in a statewide news release.

To be included in our news release, send your events to Jessica Ledbetter at no later than April 20, 2015.

Henry Award Winners to be Revealed at Annual Governor's Conference on Tourism

2/5/2015 2:00:00 p.m.

Henry Awards Winners to be Revealed at Annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

The 2015 Henry Awards winners will be revealed at the 41st Annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism to be held in Texarkana at the Arkansas Convention Center March 8-10, 2015. The awards ceremony will take place during the Governor’s Banquet on the final night of the conference, March 10. Conference registration is also open and available online at

The awards and respective finalists are:

The Media Support Award, which is presented annually to a distinguished individual or organization for extraordinary attention to and/or support of Arkansas’s tourism industry through the use of media.
  • Gospel Station Network, Ada, Oklahoma
  • The Helena World, Helena-West Helena
  • Jay Lindly (KDQN), De Queen
The Bootstrap Award, which is presented annually to an individual, organization, or community that has achieved significant success “on a shoestring,” having limited means to work with, either in resources or finances.
  • Buck Fever Festival, Banks
  • Helena Museum of Phillips County, Helena-West Helena
  • WWII Japanese Internment Museum, McGehee
The Arkansas Heritage Award, which is presented annually to an individual, organization, or community that has made a significant contribution toward the preservation of some aspect of Arkansas’s natural, cultural or aesthetic legacy.
  • Heifer Ranch, Perryville
  • Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, Dyess
  • Old Independence Regional Museum, Batesville
The Grand Old Classic Special Event Award, which is presented annually to a festival, fair or other special celebration that has “stood the test of time” and become an established example to follow.
  • Eureka Springs Corvette Weekend, Eureka Springs
  • Lights of the Ozarks, Fayetteville
  • Quapaw Quarter Association Spring Tour of Homes, Little Rock
The Outstanding Volunteer Service Award, which is presented annually to a community, individual or organization that, through outstanding volunteer spirit, has made a substantial contribution to Arkansas’s tourism industry.
  • Charles Snapp, Walnut Ridge
  • Fatima Treuer, Eureka Springs
  • Mulberry River Cleanup, Ozark
The Community Tourism Development Award, which is presented annually to an individual or organization that has achieved substantial success in the enhancement of its local resources through imaginative and innovative development efforts.
  • BPW Barn Sale, Camden
  • City of Conway, Conway
  • Hot Springs Baseball Trail, Hot Springs
The Natural State Award, which is presented annually to a community, organization, special event or attraction that “stands out in the crowd” because of its unique appeal, media coverage, creative approach and/or enhancement of community pride, thus benefiting the state’s quality of life.
  • Bridges of Pulaski County/River Lights in the Rock, Little Rock
  • Fayetteville Ale Trail, Fayetteville
  • Slaughter Pen Mountain Bike Trail, Bentonville
The Tourism Special Achievement Award, which is presented annually to an individual or organization that has contributed to the tourism industry through leadership “above and beyond” the normal requirements of their jobs.
  • Best Western Arkansas Cooperative, Statewide
  • Hope Platform Committee, Hope
  • U.S. Marshals Commemorative Coin Program, Fort Smith
During the Henry Awards ceremonies, inductees into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame and the Tourism Person of the Year will also be announced.

For more information on the 41st Annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism, contact the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism at 501-682-1088. For specific information on the Henry Awards, contact Kristine Puckett or Jessica Ledbetter at 501-682-5240.

So Much Happening This Summer in the Natural State

2/5/2015 11:37:00 a.m.

Greetings Industry Insiders!

Don’t be fooled by today’s temperate weather – summer is heating up in Arkansas. Right now, festivals and events are booming while people are taking advantage of our lakes and rivers during these long days. Next month, we’ll celebrate the grand opening of Historic Dyess Colony: The Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash. In September, we follow up with the groundbreaking of the much-anticipated U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith on the 24th, and the introduction of a new arts and culture festival, ACANSA, in Central Arkansas the final weekend of the month.

There are a lot of ways you can help make this a great season for yourself, your property and for Arkansas. Click through our links below to add your voice to a new bicycle plan by the Highway Department and to help push the Pig Trail Scenic Byway into USA Today’s 10 Best Motorcycle Rides. And don’t forget, it’s time to get your paperwork together and apply for feasibility studies for new attractions in your area through a grant provided by our department.

Remember your sunscreen!


Joe David Rice

Feasibility Study Deadline Approaching

The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism’s Tourism Attraction Feasibility Study Matching Grant Program deadline is quickly approaching. Incorporated cities and counties are eligible to apply for financial assistance for studies to determine the feasibility of potential tourism attractions. The deadline to apply is Friday, July 25 at 5:00 p.m. Read more here.

Pick the Pig Trail!

USA Today is currently soliciting votes for the top 10 motorcycle trips in the country. Among the choices: the Arkansas Highway 23 section known as the Pig Trail Scenic Byway. This rollicking stretch from north of Ozark to near Fayetteville is popular with motorcycle enthusiasts across the nation. Help raise the Pig Trail to the top spot by clicking here and entering your vote.

Speak Up About Bicycling

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department wants your input! The existing bicycle and pedestrian transportation plan adopted in 1998 is being revised. The new proposal will establish where and how new trails and facilities will be built for these users. AHTD has developed a questionnaire to help mold this project. Please click here to participate.

ACANSA Festival to Celebrate the Arts

The ACANSA Arts Festival will make its debut in Little Rock and North Little Rock September 24-28. It will feature 26 performances and eight special events. “Acansa” is a term neighboring tribes used to describe the ancient Quapaw native Americans, meaning “people of the southern place.” The ACANSA festival will in turn be a Southern celebration of the arts.

The festival was inspired by Spotelo USA, an arts festival in Charleston, South Carolina, now in its 38th year with over 60,000 ticket holders. Festival organizers look forward to ACANSA’s positive impact on the community, as it will bring a boost in business to hotels, restaurants and merchants.

The full schedule of events can be found online at

Duck Hunters Set All-Time Record

Waterfowl hunting last season set a record in Arkansas, with the number of hunters at an all-time high, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Hunting participation is measured by the number of duck stamps sold. For the 2013-2014 waterfowl hunting season, 97,117 stamps were sold in Arkansas, beating the 2002-2003 season record 95,863.

Forty percent of the stamp sales were for non-residents, indicating out-of-state hunters continue to migrate to Arkansas for waterfowl activities. Read more here.

Wright House Already Drawing Visitors

The Bachman Wilson House, purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in January, is attracting onlookers and architects who are eager to see the finished product.

The project, currently in phase one, includes building a road on the landscaped grounds of Crystal Bridges to serve the construction traffic. During phase two, the basement and slab will be constructed.

The 1950s Frank Lloyd Wright house, transported from New Jersey, is currently in a Bentonville warehouse awaiting phase three of the reconstruction process. In October, onlookers will be able to watch the reconstruction of the house, board by board. Read more here.

Get those late summer travelers to your property!

2/5/2015 11:36:00 a.m.


Have a vacancy? Want more people to come to your door? You can bring more business to your table right now. The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism is making a late summer push, sending consumers to our Deals and Coupons section to take advantage of end-of-summer opportunities before the season's over. Let's make those decisions easier for visitors to The Natural State who are looking to put together an outstanding trip. Now’s the time to take advantage of this free program to share what you have to offer.

It doesn't matter if you’re a hotelier looking to fill rooms, a restaurant manager who’d like to serve up more appetizers, a unique shop hoping to entice art lovers and shopaholics or an attraction owner who wants to encourage more guests to come visit – there’s a Deal or Coupon meant for you. Some suggestions:

  1. Give a dollar or two off admission to your location.
  2. Combine a hotel stay with an added bonus (such as a bottle of wine or a souvenir).
  3. Partner with other industry members to create packages to make your customer’s selection of activities, dining and lodging simpler.

Remember, it doesn't have to be a discount. Tourists want suggestions on what to discover on their journey; by creating coupons and packaging lodging, attraction and dining options together, you're offering easy options for these guests. It's a convenient way to make planning easier for visitors, and when a vacation is easy to book, they're more likely to make that decision.

To enter an offer into Deals and Coupons, head to and enter your partner login. Follow the directions, and soon travelers will be heading your way to redeem that special and spend time (and dollars!) at your property.

It's "Shorts" Season, Arkansas!

2/5/2015 11:35:00 a.m.

Greetings Industry Insiders!

With the temperature warming up and summer break in session, it is officially "shorts" season, and Arkansas is the perfect place to unwind. From the new 64-foot paddleboat in Pocahontas to Little Rock’s Aloft Hotel in the works, Arkansans and visitors alike are in for thrilling new endeavors this season.

Read the latest industry news below!


Joe David Rice

Commission Approves Fall/Winter 2014-2015 Campaign

With an emphasis on relaxation, the Fall/Winter campaign pairs spectacular photography of Arkansas’s fall foliage with poetic headlines to bring the consumer a rejuvenating experience. With print ad placements in magazines such as Nature Conservancy Magazine, Bicycling magazine, Garden & Gun, Endless Vacation, Arkansas Wild and Celebrate Arkansas, as well as in-state and out-of-state radio spots, TV and online ads, Arkansas’s breathtaking scenery and vacation destinations will be marketed to travelers all over the country.

Paddleboat Arrives in Pocahontas for Tourism Boost

In May, a 64-foot paddleboat made its debut in Pocahontas. Scores of residents turned out to welcome the vessel, which was led by a police escort.

Mikey Johnson, of Pocahontas, is credited for the new attraction. He hopes the boat will boost tourism in the area.

Plans call for the boat to be on display near AgriGrow for a few weeks for the community to enjoy. Johnson plans to move his boat to the Black River Technical College into the hands of skilled students for restoration before making its maiden voyage on the river. Read more here.

Aloft Hotel to Join Little Rock’s Main Street Corridor

Chi Hotel Group LLC acquired the 12-story Boyle Building for $4.6 million. The plan is to develop the building as an Aloft Hotel. This redevelopment is a vital component in the remaking of the Main Street corridor.

The combined cost of the building and renovations will be close to $18 million and is being financed locally by Iberia Bank according to Jacob Chi, the Chi Hotel Group's managing partner. Read more here.

Oaklawn Gaining Speed in Online Gambling

Oaklawn Park launched its new betting website last December and has since generated $9.1 million in wagers, according to the Arkansas State Racing Commission.

“We’re very happy with the response over the first five months,” said Bobby Geiger, Director of Gaming and Wagering.

Roughly 10 years ago, Oaklawn requested to launch a betting website, but the Arkansas state legislature denied it. Arkansans continued to use other online betting websites out of state while Oaklawn was sidelined in the cyber world.

The projected $30 million that Arkansans were spending annually on national betting websites can now be directed back to The Natural State. Read more here.

Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Events Deadline Approaching

The Southeast Tourism Society is now accepting nominations for its list of Top 20 Events. Designated events published in the Top 20 list stand out as the best in the Southeast. To qualify, events must have at least 1,000 people in attendance, be in at least the third year in existence and submit a $220 nomination fee per event. The deadline is Friday, July 11 for events in January, February and March of 2015. To nominate your event, click here.

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