LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The upcoming Arkansas Governor's Conference
on Tourism, set for Pine Bluff March 16 to 18, comes several months
after voters defeated a casino gambling proposal, which was opposed
by Gov. Mike Huckabee.
That proposal would have brought casino gambling to Hot Springs,
an activity that many in the travel industry welcomed because of
competition for group and individual business.
The ever-expanding Mississippi casino-hotels, the high-stakes
bingo games in Oklahoma and the lure of Branson, Mo., and its
numerous showrooms all compete with Arkansas.
Joe David Rice, Arkansas' tourism director, said that although
gambling is no longer an option, "the state is more determined than
ever to expand its tourism base.
"Arkansas will continue to draw travelers with the beauty of its
natural world and its living folk heritage and historical
"[We also rely on] such major attractions as Hot Springs
National Park, the Buffalo National River, Eureka Springs, the
Ozark Folk Center, Blanchard Springs Caverns, the Delta Cultural
Center and the state's mountains, lakes and float streams," he
In that context, Arkansas will be running both activity-oriented
and scenery-focused ads in consumer publications, Rice said.
It also will be targeting "snowbirds" in Canada by direct mail
as well as Arkansans with a Fun, Family and Friends theme.
To entice groups with special interests, an Antique Trail
brochure and a Golf in Arkansas Guide are available for the first
Meanwhile, the Department of Parks and Tourism expects to
publish a new series of themed sample itineraries by August,
according to Marla Crider, group travel manager.
Historic Churches, the Civil War and Architecture will be among
the themes, she said during a separate interview.
In a move to expand the motorcoach tour business, which now is
concentrated in the central U.S., there will be some private
familiarization tours for operators from New Jersey and California,
Meanwhile, creating economic incentives for major tourism
development projects is a legislative goal of the Arkansas
Department of Parks and Tourism, Rice added.