CAPC's financial report paints mixed picture on tourism

Monday, June 2, 2008

EUREKA SPRINGS -- While this weekend's Blues Festival looks to do about $49,000 better than it did in 2007, the City Advertising and Promotion Commission has concerns about where the economy is going.

During the financial report Tuesday afternoon, which showed collections up 9.8 percent over the same time period in 2007, it was a mixed bag with April receipts of $107,086 being 1.7 percent below projections, but 3 percent over April 2007, with restaurants being up and lodging being down.

Chairman Richard Grinnell stated that hotels are running even with 2007, while motels are down significantly. "It seems motels, at the lower end of the market, are hurting more than the higher," he said, cautioning that the commission only has four months of data.

That could explain the optimism expressed by Jack Moyer, of The Crescent and Basin Park hotels, as he reported on this weekend's Blues Festival.

His presentation began with the display of a T-shirt and spaghetti strap top promoting the festival, and he stated that tie-dye and Basin Park styles were coming in. Merchants can buy shirts in lots of 12 for $10 each, with a retail price of $18.

With a 2007 loss of $58,377 and a commitment of $66,000 in 2008, he stated that he expects the Blues weekend to do about $49,000 better this year.

He described Blues Weekend as "an important cornerstone event," but admitted it "may take a hit." Total ticket sales were halfway there, and he urged lodging operators to incorporate ticket sales when checking in guests. Tickets can also be purchased on-line at

Moyer said he believes the right business model is in place, and that "Blues Weekend is a full-time deal." The idea is to get money into the businesses, he added. For that reason, the Saturday night event in Basin Park has been dropped to prevent a swell in downtown and encourage visitors to go to other venues.

The trolly system has extended Saturday night's service to 8 p.m., and the limousin service will be available all night at $5 per ride.

Executive Director Jim Williams reported that winter vacation packages "look a little dismal," but added that the value to the city is promotion during the holidays.

He called attention to nine pages in "The Knot" devoted to the wedding industry in Eureka Springs.

There was some discussion regarding vacant positions on the commission. The concensus was to resubmit James DeVito's name to the city council to fill a four-year term representing restaurants on the commission, replacing K.J. Zumwalt, whose term expires in June, and to put out a call for persons interested in filling a position representing lodging.

There was also considerable discussion regarding the city's Web site, with Grinnell saying that Williams knows the importance of it, and the commission needs to move fast and forcefully.

Commissioner Joyce Zeller expressed reservations saying Aristotle, the current provider, is "not particularly creative.

"We need to be trendy and Victorian, and there are people who can do it better," she said, adding that Eureka Springs "is a prestigious account."

Grinnell responded that the commission needs to

"figure out what we want," including youthfulness and ease of getting information. He indicated that he was willing to give Aristotle "a shot at it."

Commissioner and Mayor Dani Joy noted that the Web contract will likely have to be bid out, and she said that even if the cost is less that $20,000, she still would want bids to get a better cost.

Williams said the CAPC cannot expect to have 100 percent control of Web content, but that "we definitely ought to do more than we are."

Grinnell also suggested going out for bids, noting that some services are charging half of what Aristotle was charging just a few years ago.

In response to concerns expressed by Commissioner Alvin Byrd regarding local musicians performing between sets of groups performing in Basin Park, Williams stated he does not think the intent is to prevent local musicians from playing, but that with new emphasis on the venue this year they may feel crowded out.

Joy indicated that the current practice complies with city ordinances, and that those complaining should talk to their city council member. Byrd stated that he doesn't think the intent is to run local performers away, and that they need to understand that the CAPC is paying the acts to play.

The commission also addressed a recent incident in which an employee at The Auditorium was accosted by someone regarding something the employee had nothing to do with. It was suggested that if something like that happens again, the police should be contacted.

Williams reported on a Freedom of Information Act policy for area real-estate sales agents, ironically noting that the Arkansas Department of Revenue has the information being sought but does not supply it, while the information can be readily obtained through the CAPC.

The next regular CAPC meeting will be at the Western District Courthouse at 5 p.m. on June 25.

Williams asked for workshops regarding the Web site and collections, noting that one business has records showing only 41 nights sold in 2007.

A meeting regarding the city trolly system was announced for noon Thursday, May 29, at Rockhouse Plaza. Concerns to be addressed included rising gasoline prices, decreasing ridership, and lack of emphasis on the trolly system by local lodging facilities. Lodging managers were encouraged to attend the meeting.

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