Ark. creates incentives for development of attractions

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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 tourist attractions.

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 neighboring states.

"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.

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