Tourism cornerstone of state economy

Tourism is one of the cornerstones of the Arkansas economy, and the state Department of Parks and Tourism consistently modernizes promotional campaigns to make sure that travelers continue visiting the state.

Last year $7.2 billion was spent on travel and tourism in Arkansas, an 8.7 percent increase over the previous year.

Promoting Arkansas as a tourist destination is no longer simply a matter of buying television commercials in Dallas, Memphis, Shreveport and Springfield, although that is still an integral part of our marketing campaigns.

It’s no longer enough to create and maintain an eye-catching web site with interactive features and an array of links to tourist destinations.

State tourism officials recognize that today’s consumers are constantly jumping from screen to screen, that is, from smart phones to laptops to televisions to desktop computers to various forms of outdoor advertising.

The challenge for tourism officials begins with technology that connects to consumers on a multitude of screens and platforms, The next step is to attract them to websites like for vacation planning ideas.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of the various elements of marketing Arkansas as a tourist destination, creativity comes into play. That’s why our marketing strategy tells a story that develops across all the screens and channels that consumers watch.

The narrative presents Arkansas as a place where they can enjoy experiences of sight and sound and flavor, mixed in with “once in a lifetime” experiences. That experience may be hang-gliding or sitting under a waterfall.

It could be soaking up culture at an art museum or a music venue. Many ads for Arkansas tourism combine images of outdoor and indoor activities, for example, one image shows people boating and on the same page is a photo taken inside a fine restaurant.

Tourism relies on advertising, which relies on market research. The data shows that 60 percent of travel decision makers are female and 49 percent still use printed material and magazines when looking for a vacation destination. These days, 41 percent use a smart phone.

Labor Day marked the traditional end of the summer season, and if you paid attention to the ads promoting Arkansas tourism this year you may have noticed a new emphasis on mountain biking and cycling. It’s a growing segment of the recreational industry, representing about 13 percent of all spending on outdoor activities nationwide, but only four percent in Arkansas.

Cycling and biking ties in well with our campaigns promoting the availability of outdoor fun in Arkansas, such as hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, bird watching and golfing. It complements another relatively new area of emphasis in tourism campaigns, which is to target motorcycle riders by promoting Arkansas roads as great for cruising. After a beautiful ride you can enjoy night life and good food.

The tourism agency has negotiated with the Arkansas Press Association to place inserts in newspapers. Arkansas is promoted in videos played in Branson hotel rooms and on billboards in Dallas. A new magazine has been added to the list that runs ads for Arkansas – Garden and Gun. Its readership matches well with the tourist agency’s target audience.

If you have any questions or comments about legislative issues, contact me at or call me at (479) 650-9712.