LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Joe David Rice, tourism director for the
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, is touting the hiring of
a former travel agent, visitor increases and new attractions for
A new addition to the department is group travel manager Ann
Gray, a former travel agent, Rice said.
In recent years, Gray worked in the gift industry, running a
gift shop in Eureka Springs, Ark., from where she also organized
Earlier, Gray owned two retail travel agencies in the Cocoa,
Fla., area during the 1980s and early 1990s. After selling them,
she traveled the U.S.
Among her duties will be the development of an "aggressive fam
tour schedule" for operators and agents, Rice said.
The department's marketing efforts are producing results, with
Arkansas reporting 19.8 million visitors in 1999 -- about 3.2% more
than in 1998.
"We're expecting about 20.5 million [visitors] in 2000, and
roughly 21.5 million in 2001," Rice said.
New or planned attractions in Arkansas include Garvin Woodland
Gardens, a $10 million project on the shores of Lake Hamilton near
Hot Springs; Mount Magazine State Park, a $21 million complex under
construction near the state's highest peak, and Crowley's Ridge
National Scenic Byway, a 200-mile route extending from Helena to
Also on tap are $6 million in renovations at Fort Smith National
Historic Site; the designation of Little Rock's Central High School
as a National Historic Site, and the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum
& Educational Center in Piggott, focusing on Ernest Hemingway's
ties to northeastern Arkansas.
In Eureka Springs, "The Great Passion Play" is undergoing a
series of enhancements, and the historical Basin Park and Crescent
Hotels were remodeled.
The tourism department is placing additional emphasis on the
Internet and is continuously adding to its home page, at www.arkansas.com, he
In other news, the 2-year-old Northwest Arkansas Regional
Airport at Highfill, near Bentonville, is doing well, according to
American Eagle begins regional jet service there Dec. 2 with two
daily nonstops from New York (LaGuardia).
Atlantic Southeast, Northwest and TransWorld Express also serve
The theme for Travel South Showcase's 2001 closing night
ceremony, March 17, set for the House of Blues in New Orleans, is
"Splish Splash" -- a reminder that Hot Springs will be the host
city for the 2002 Showcase, set for Feb. 23 to 27.
"For upcoming [trade] shows, we'll continue to emphasize
Arkansas' diversity of attractions, convenient location, friendly
people, scenery and affordable costs," Rice said.
"For consumers, we'll stress those characteristics, adding
supplemental messages for families with kids and mature