Civic leaders make case to legislators

Friday, September 12, 2014

Local civic leaders met with a state legislative subcommittee on Friday, Sept. 5, to discuss the importance of tourism to Arkansas' economy and to seek support for state investment in tourist destinations such as Eureka Springs.

Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce Director Mike Bishop joined Jack Moyer, vice president of operations and development for the Crescent and Basin Park hotels, and Dr. Robert Harrington from the University of Arkansas to make a presentation to the House Parks and Tourism Subcommittee of Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development.

Harrington gave an overview of the state's hospitality industry and presented some key statistics.

Of particular note was how Carroll County stacks up against the rest of the state in tourism revenues. Arkansas averages $2,027.45 in tourism revenue per capita, Harrington said, while Northwest Arkansas generates $1574.87 per capita and Carroll County generates $6283.73 per capita. State tourism tax revenues for the first half of 2014 showed that Carroll County generated $274,764, up 4.4 percent from the previous year.

Harrington said the factors that drive successful destination tourism are accessibility, scenic and physical beauty, hospitality infrastructure, entertainment and reliability. In summary, Harrington told the subcommittee there is growing opportunity for economic impact, job growth, entrepreneurial activity and tax revenue growth in Eureka Springs. He said his department now offers an online master's degree in hospitality that could further help the area prosper in the future.

Jack Moyer presented a concept for legislative recommendations to restimulate investment in seasoned tourism-based communities.

"Tourism-based communities such as Eureka Springs, while working to reinvent themselves and remain relevant in an ever-competitive tourism market often fall behind competitors partially due to the availability of crucial funding and infrastructure support leaning more towards new build than reinvestment," Moyer said in a document he presented at the meeting. "This gap leaves established communities shrinking and new pursuits appearing more attractive.

"Eureka Springs and Western Carroll County is the golden egg," Moyer said in the document.

Moyer's figures show that Carroll County is maintaining tax collections, but losing visitors. According to Moyer, Carroll County ranks fifth in the state for travel-generated state tax, despite ranking 24th in population. Moyer said tourism in Carroll County accounts for $174 million per year.

Moyer said restarting the Arkansas Communities of Excellence (ACE) program and/or furthering programming with the University of Arkansas' Cooperative Extension's Breakthrough Solutions program to complete community assessments is a crucial first step in developing future planning. With the ACE or UA avenues in place a community development corporation could be created.

Moyer seemed to surprise the subcommittee when he was asked how much money he needed for Eureka Springs.

According to Moyer, $100,000 per year to help establish a CDC, which could secure and maintain the services of grant writers, would suffice. He emphasized that to work for Eureka Springs and other seasoned tourism communities the state would need to re-establish the ACE.

Bishop took the stage last by presenting sites that are ready for revitalization. He showed the subcommittee a rendered plan for the old high school site, now sitting empty on prime real estate. The drawing included a community center, swimming pool, food court and a covered outdoor market area. He said that at this time, a town the size of Eureka Springs has no avenues to revitalization without stimulus from the state. Bishop re-emphasized the steps to funding a CDC as a solution for seasoned tourist communities such as Eureka Springs.

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  • Talk has whispered by past tourist that the Big D Weekends does not impress them to have their children in Eureka Springs that calls themselves a

    Christian Community with the Passion Play and can go

    elsewhere that Weekends of such does not happen!

    -- Posted by fosterfoster7289 on Tue, Sep 23, 2014, at 2:10 PM
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