Tourists flocked to Arkansas last year

2020 has been a dark year for tourism in the natural state, but 2021 has once again brought out the sun.

Driving the news: Collections in 2021 of the state’s 2% Lodging and Attractions Tax increased nearly 17% to $20.9 million from $17.9 million in 2019, according to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

  • The tax pays for Arkansas’ tourism marketing budget.
  • It had fallen to $14.2 million in 2020.

Why is this important: Tourism is a major economic driver in the state. In 2019, the industry was responsible for nearly 70,000 jobs, $429 million in state tax revenue, and $169 million in local tax revenue.

Data: Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.  Graphic: Axios Visuals
Data: Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Graphic: Axios Visuals

The backdrop: The Department of Parks and Tourism recently released its 2020 Economic Impact Report.

By the numbers: Visitor spending fell to $6 billion in 2020 from $8 billion in 2019, and there was a 44% decrease in overnight stays to around 12.6 million from 22.5 million in 2019.

What they say : “As the world continues to emerge from the pandemic, we already know that 2021 data will show a banner year for visits to Arkansas. More than ever, people are looking for safe outdoor activities, and they have clearly seen that Arkansas is the place to go,” wrote Travis Napper, director of Arkansas Tourism, in the 2020 report.

  • May, June, July, August and October 2021 broke tax collection records of 2%, ADP&T spokeswoman Leah DiPietro told Axios.
  • Those five months alone — some during the hazy period before the Delta variant dampened business — accounted for more than half of collections last year.

What we are looking at: “Gasoline prices historically have an effect on tourism, especially for driveable states like Arkansas,” DiPietro wrote to Us in an email.

  • “But this year will be interesting to see if that holds true given increased interest in travel and outdoor recreation as COVID fears continue to wane.”

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