Governor's Conference Wrap-up

Here is a quick overview of what was presented at the conference.


General Session: The Transformative Power of Travel
Featuring Andrew McCarthy

The actor, director and award-winning travel writer focused on the importance of travel in his personal life. Some of his points were:

"Traveling  is that “aha moment” of exploring and finding something amazing.”

"Travel is imperative! The reason people don’t travel isn’t lack of time or money, it’s fear.”

"Traveling alone is one of the most important things you can do. It enabled me to lose the fear.”
"Embracing different cultures can be eye-opening. Meeting new people can make people realize “You are    totally different than me…but just like me. Travel can change the world.”


Concurrent Sessions:

The Art of Storytelling
Featuring Andrew McCarthy, actor, director and travel writer, and Debbie Geiger, president of Geiger and Associates, an award-winning PR firm that specializes in media market for travel and tourism industry clients.

Debbie Geiger asked Andrew McCarthy about preconceived notions when traveling. “It’s inevitable to   have some preconceived notions when traveling. But you can play off those ideas people have in their heads.”

Debbie asked Andrew if traveling well is a learned skill. Andrew compared traveling to a “muscle.”

“People don’t travel because of fear…it’s not lack of money or lack of time.”

*“It takes a keen eye for detail to describe something familiar.”

Additional McCarthy comments:

"Travel is an education, it isn't always for fun."

"I'm out to change the world one story at a time. One trip at a time, one person at a time, we can change the world."

It's imperative that those in the travel industry know the difference between travel and vacationing. Solo     travel is something everyone should do at least once."

Social Media for Tourism Sales
Featuring social media expert Crystal Washington

Points made by Washington included:

"You don't have to be on every social media network.Each one has a different culture. Use the ones that reach your   target audience."

"Social media does not replace personal interaction."

"Tweetbeep is like Google alerts for Twitter."

"Nearly two-thirds of U.S. Internet users will research travel via digital channels."

I-Plan Arkansas: The Plan for Investing in Infrastructure Improvements in Arkansas

Featuring Glen Bolick, Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department

“If you’re traveling in Arkansas over the next few years (thru 2022), you WILL be dealing with road construction.”

“Arkansas is the only state to have passed two highway initiatives at once – the Interstate Rehabilitation Program (IRP) and the Connecting Arkansas Program (CAP).

Luncheon: Arkansas, Incorporated -- Create Partnerships. Build Business.
Featuring Richard W. Davies, Chairman of the Board

This first ever, stockholders meeting and luncheon showed how those in attendance could reap even bigger rewards as a major stakeholder in one of The Natural State’s largest industries – tourism.

Concurrent Session:

Arkansas Steps Into The National Spotlight: How Your Community or Business Can Benefit From Participation in State-Sponsored Media Tours
Featuring Debbie Geiger, president of Geiger and Associates, an award winning PR firm that specializes in public relations and media marketing for travel and tourism industry clients.

Giving instructions to local destinations (Travel Writer FAM tour): "Familiarize yourself with the writers and the publications they work for before they get there."

"This is the time for the Delta. This is the time for Arkansas."

"The 'New South Angle' is something that communities and states should capitalize on."

"The experience of these writers (those who participated  in Arkansas FAM tours) have turned them into great Arkansas ambassadors."

"Encourage journalists to write about very specific things. 75-80% of writers who come to Arkansas have never been here before."

"Writers and travelers both are not coming for general vacations anymore, they're doing niche visits."

"Give journalists choices, not just a FAM tour."

"Spas are probably the easiest and most popular sales (to writers) for Arkansas. Promote affordable spa experiences."

General Session:  Arkansas, Incorporated -- Create Partnerships. Build Business

Featuring Joe David Rice, CEO, and the 3-A marketing team. Learn insider information that will make your stock in Arkansas, Incorporated even more valuable.

"From the first conference at Dogpatch to now, the department has put together a special presentation of photos from 40 years of  Governor's Conference, minus all the pictures we shredded."

"The Demographic Marketing Areas are a new strategy intended to be more customer- and visitor-friendly. They have very fluid boundaries."

"Simplify your information. Promote activities instead of just a place. Promote unique attractions."

"People don't just travel to Arkansas, they pick specific areas of the state."


Arkansas Tourism Industry Breakfast --Tourism Marketing Tenets (Best Practices That Turn Ordinary Into Extraordinary)”

Featuring Lynette Xanders, CEO of WildAlchemy, a non-traditional branding and research company, shared how travelers plan trips and other interesting tidbits learned from focus groups.

Lynette Xanders quoted a Yahoo! retiree. “It’s easy to make millions. You simply have to find out what people want and give it to them.”

“Everyone is in the branding business, whether you think so or not.”

“Brands are living organisms.”

“Simplify, simplify, simplify. Capture your brand in as few words as possible.”

On research – “There are some things you just can’t guess!”

Concurrent Sessions:

Wayfinding & Tourism: You CAN Get There from Here

Featuring Jan Carpman, a wayfinding expert who co-authored the book, Directional Sense: How to Find Your Way Around.

"Wayfinding and signage are two different things."

"Easy wayfinding contributes to outstanding customer experience."

"A good wayfinding system does its job and doesn't draw attention."

Arkansas Tourism Insights (The Basis of Recent Marketing Momentum)
Featuring Lynette Xanders

Lynette reported that road trips are making a MAJOR comeback, in part to the rising costs of air travel. “There’s something about making memories on a road trip. Parents remember the trips they made with their parents and want to give that to their kids.”

“We are creatures of what is on our mind THAT moment.”

“It’s all about how the customer feels. Get past the “what” and get to the “why?”

Historic Preservation and Storytelling: The Keys to Increased Tourism and Community Pride
Featuring Dr. Ruth Hawkins, executive director of Arkansas State University’s Arkansas Heritage Sites program; Cathy Cunningham, community development consultant, Southern Bancorp Community Partners; Claude Legris, executive director, Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau; and, Steve Arrison, CEO, Visit Hot Springs.

Ruth Hawkins: "The key to telling stories is authenticity."

"Find the stories that make your community unique."

"Preserve what remains as a vehicle for presenting stories."

"Tell the stories honestly."

Claude Legris: "We put historic building plaques on buildings across the street from the ones the plaques are about so people could read the plaque and look at the building at the same time."

Cathy Cunningham: "Estevan Hall is restored.  It will be open to the public as a Helena/Civil War Welcome Center."

Steve Arrison: "65% of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Members trained in Hot Springs. And there are now 28 sites on the Baseball Trail.

Is Your Community Camera-Ready? Is Arkansas?

Featuring Christopher Crane, Arkansas Film Commissioner

"The motion picture industry in Arkansas is 'much ado about something.'"

Response to what is camera-ready: "Film isn't just about beautiful locations, it's much more. In film, it's not always about the 'glory' shot, it can be about the location's diversity."

"On average over the next four years after the film was released, places saw a 54% increase in visitors after a motion picture filmed at their location was released."

Example: "Dyersville, IA saw 100,000 more visitors per year after Field of Dreams was filmed there."

Q: What can AR do to exploit films made here?

A: 1- Offer grants and tax breaks.

2- Be actively involved in location scouting.

3- Plan carefully to maximize the impact of its post-release promotional exposure.

4- Carefully assess a film's merit in terms of its promotion value.

5- Plan activities to promote other tourism sites around where the filming was done.

6- Post signage of locations in the community/area where films were made.

"It's very important to have untainted environments, don't mess with it."

"The motion picture industry is still an infant industry in the state. Arkansas ranks above others in the fields of customer service to the film industry and topography." 

Lunch...That Rocks

Featuring The Honorable Mike Beebe, Governor

"When a new  governor comes into the office, they need to be educated about tourism. You need to tell them what the tourism industry means to the state. Make sure they understand the importance of tourism and what it means to

"This industry is not localized. tourism and hospitality are not segregated to one area of the state, it is a statewide enterprise."

"Make sure you don't fall asleep on the job, make sure the next governor and legislators know what tourism means to the state."

Culture That Rocks
Featuring Jim Knight, former senior director of training and development at Hard Rock International, who shared insights on culture, guest service, employee branding and philanthropy.

"As people join or leave the band/brand the culture changes"

"Celebrate heritage but focus on culture."

"The most successful companies in the world have a shared mindset among all employees."

"Everybody has a part to play in the band. Be like U2, everyone singing off the same page."

"If you don't like change, you're really going to hate extinction."

"Unique individuals equal unique experiences. The employees are the show. Hire rock stars not lip-syncers to amp up the band."

"Think different. The people who think they are crazy enough to change the world are the ones who do."