Wolfinbarger talks tourism at Berryville Rotary meeting

Friday, February 2, 2018
Randy Wolfinbarger, general manager of the Best Western Inn of the Ozarks in Eureka Springs and a member of the Arkansas State Parks and Tourism Commission, speaks to the Berryville Rotary Club on Tuesday.
Photo courtesy of Johnice Dominick

Randy Wolfingbarger knows a thing or two about tourism, and now the Berryville Rotary Club does, too.

Wolfinbarger, who is general manager of the Best Western Inn of the Ozarks in Eureka Springs and serves on the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Commission, spoke to Berryville Rotarians on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at the Berryville Fire Station. Wolfinbarger thanked those in attendance who helped get him on the commission, saying the Carroll County Republicans were responsible for his appointment.

“It took a lot of letter writing. It took a lot of energy from a lot of people,” Wolfinbarger said. “That’s how I was able to get on, and I’m glad to do it.”

Wolfinbarger described growing up on Rock House Road in Eureka Springs, working on the farm with his parents until he was 11. That’s when he got a job washing dishes at a small restaurant in Eureka Springs, Wolfinbarger said.

“Tourism is all I’ve ever known,” he said. “I did not like to be a farmer. I did not enjoy the hayfields in the summertime.”

He’s encouraged a love of tourism in his sons, Wolfinbarger said, employing both at Best Western Inn of the Ozarks over the years. Wolfinbarger said he usually focuses on tourism in Eureka Springs but pointed out everything happening on the eastern side of Carroll County to bring visitors to the area.

“It’s very impressive what’s going on here. I think you’re more in tourism than you think you are,” Wolfinbarger said. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t be doing murals on your buildings. If you ever want to get an idea of what another city is doing, just go to Fort Smith and see what they’re doing on their buildings. They’re bringing in crews from all over the world to paint murals.”

Being on the state tourism commission has shown him all the tourism opportunities in Arkansas, Wolfinbarger said, from McGehee to Texarkana to El Dorado. McGehee has one of the finest duck shooting facilities in the state, Wolfinbarger said, with hookups for more than 100 RVs on-site for those who want to watch the action.

“Then you go to Texarkana in the southwest section of the state. Two major convention centers have been built in the last five years,” Wolfinbarger said. “They understand what’s going on with tourism.”

In El Dorado, he said, the downtown district is being renovated into an entertainment mecca.

“The next phase is creating more space there,” Wolfinbarger said. “They just finished up a 20,000-square-foot conference facility.”

Even Bentonville, Wolfinbarger said, has exploded over the past few years. He used to go to Bentonville on Thursday afternoons to have lunch with his wife at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Wolfinbarger remembered.

“It’s not that way today,” he said. “Tourism has been discovered in this great state. It’s going to be big.”

He described the history of tourism in the state, saying there was only $600,000 available to promote tourism in 1985. With the passage of a 2 percent tax on lodging and attractions, Wolfinbarger said, the state has $6 million to bring visitors to the area today.

“We’re starting to reap the benefits of that funding,” he said. “Ninety-two percent of it comes from lodging. The rest is attractions.”

Carroll County is showing an increase in tourism, Wolfinbarger said, with Eureka Springs up 1 percent last year and the county up 4 percent. The lodging has moved out of Eureka Springs, he said, and is now around Beaver Lake and Kings River. This is important, he said, because it means the county has a chance to work together to bring tourists in. Wolfinbarger said the county could combine its two largest industries, agriculture and tourism.

“Agriculture and tourism work well hand-in-hand,” he said. “It’s the best combination you could ever get. I want us all to remember that’s not a wall. That’s a bridge.”

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  • Randy We want the People all over to visit and enjoy Eureka Springs, but the Illegals of Immigration that will not get their Citizenship needs to get on to obeying the Laws of America real fast if they intend stay! Walls are to keep the "Enemies of America abay until they come through Our Gates by the Laws on the Books! Bridges are built to enable us to roll over troubled waters and calm waters! Come on and quit lowering the Republican Standards in America!

    -- Posted by fosterfoster7289 on Tue, Feb 6, 2018, at 1:24 PM
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