LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- When the Arkansas Governor's Conference on
Tourism convenes March 16 and 17 in Jonesboro, the theme will be:
"Building Tourism: The Future is Now." Tourism growth has not
occurred in Arkansas for the past three years, with annual visitors
figures virtually unchanged and annual visitor spending remaining
at slightly more than $3 billion.
In 1997, there were some 18.1 million visitors, the same as in
1995, while in 1996 the total was somewhat less, 18.06 million. The
Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism counts only those
visitors traveling 100 miles or more in-state or those staying
According to a 1996 tourism study done for the state in 1997 by
D.K. Shifflet & Associates, McLean, Va., Arkansas continues to
face stiff competition from the theaters in Branson, Mo.;
attractions in Nashville and elsewhere in Tennessee, plus the
gambling casinos just over the border in Mississippi, especially
those in Tunica and Lula.
To stimulate motorcoach tours and construction of new
attractions, Arkansas' visitor interests last year were successful
in getting the state legislature to approve two laws. Under the
first, the state agreed to reimburse motorcoach operators one cent
for each mile they traveled within Arkansas in conjunction with an
This payment somewhat offsets an ad valorem tax assessed on the
coaches by Arkansas, something that has been opposed vigorously by
Under the second act, Arkansas pledged to rebate a portion of
the sales tax collected by major developers of new recreational and
entertainment facilities that would draw at least 25% of their
visitors from outside of the state.
During the upcoming governor's conference slated for the
Arkansas State University Convocation Center, some 650 delegates
will hear an updated report from two D.K. Shifflet officials: Lisa
Bellisario, destinations marketing analyst, and Tom Dewhurst,
Separately, details of the 1998 State Tourism Marketing Report:
Blueprint for the Future will be presented by state officials.
These speakers also will give a presentation to supplier attendees,
titled 10 Affordable Ways to Build Your Business for the Future,
which will cover the Internet, research, co-op advertising, the use
of databases, publicity, business marketing and other methods of
The keynote address will be delivered by Doug Lipp, a
hospitality consultant based in Fair Oaks, Calif., who formerly was
the head trainer at Walt Disney University. His topic will be the
Magic of Exceptional Customer Service: How to Build, Win and Keep
Your Market Share. During a seminar afterward, Lipp will discuss
other aspects of guest service.
Other subjects to be covered include Scenic Byways, by Ruth
Hawkins, of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro and Steve Weston
of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, Little Rock;
Action Plans for Success, by Jay Rifenbary, president of Rifenbary
Training & Development Center, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and
Arkansas' Web sites, by Marla Johnson, chief executive officer of
Aristotle Internet Access, Little Rock.
Also on the agenda are Using Retail Trends to Develop Downtown,
by Stephanie Redman, National Main Street program associate for the
National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, and Capturing
the Baby Boomer Market, by Maddy Kent Dychtwald, co-founder of Age
Wave Inc., Orinda, Calif., which follows trends in marketing to
The Journey Into the Next Millennium is the topic of Edward
Barlow Jr., president of Creating the Future Inc., of St. Joseph,
Mich. Also, a state highway beautification program called Operation
Wildflower will be discussed by Ralph Hall of the Arkansas Highway
and Transportation Department.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will address the closing banquet,
which will include the presentation of the Henry Awards recognizing
those making contributions that boost tourism.
Registration to attend the entire conference, including meals,
costs $125 if that sum is remitted by March 13. Thereafter, the
cost is $160. For information, contact Nancy Clark, assistant
tourism director, (501) 682-1120.
The Holiday Inn, Jonesboro, the conference's host hotel, is sold
out. However, other Jonesboro properties are extending nightly
rates of $50 or less to delegates. They include the Autumn Inn,
Best Western, Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Jonesboro Motel,
Park Inn, Ramada Limited, Scottish Inn, Super 8 and Wilson Inn. To
assure convention rates, reservations must be made directly with
the hotels before March 1.