LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The state of Arkansas agreed to provide up to
$15,000 in matching grants to cities and counties that initiate
feasibility studies that could lead to the development of local
The state's principal competitors are Branson, Mo.,
Mississippi's casino operations and numerous attractions in
Tennessee. Tourism consultants advised Arkansas in 1997 that its
man-made attractions were insufficient compared with those of
"Arkansas tourism grew by about 9% in 1998," Joe David Rice, the
state's tourism director, noted. "But tourism is an evolving,
highly competitive business," he said. "While we can't control what
happens in neighboring states, we can devise ways to supplement our
strongest draw -- the natural beauty of Arkansas -- with
attractions of regional interest."
Up to $50,000 is available for the matching-grants program, he
said, which augments earlier tourism incentives approved by the
state legislature. One such incentive enables attraction developers
to recover up to 25% of their initial investment (of at least
$500,000) through a tax credit. To be eligible, at least 25% of the
attraction's visitors must come from outside Arkansas.
Another incentive gives travel agents, tour operators or group
leaders a $25 rebate for each night their group utilizes at least
20 paid hotel rooms.