With Legislation Passed, Arkansas Moves to Boost Arrivals

By Henry Magenheim

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.-- Arkansas tourism officials implemented two measures passed by the state Legislature earlier this year to enhance tourism promotion efforts. One measure benefits motorcoach tour operators; the other, tourist attraction developers. Both pieces of legislation were endorsed by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the private sector.

Highlights follow:

*Arkansas Motorcoach Carrier Incentive Program

For some time, Arkansas has been at a competitive disadvantage because motorcoach operators passing through the state paid an ad valorem tax on the value of their equipment. In fact, some operators purposely avoided the state, according to letters of protest sent to Marla Crider, group travel manager for the Department of Parks and Tourism. Under the new law, operators who stay at least one night in the state will now be entitled to receive a payment of one-cent per mile to offset the ad valorem tax. The payment is based on the number of miles the motorcoaches actually travel in Arkansas in conjunction with an overnight stay. Americoach Tours, Memphis, was singled out by the state as an operator that would be due $1,690 if its Arkansas travel in 1996 (169,000 miles) were repeated in 1997. For more information on the motorcoach act, contact Marla Crider in the group sales office, (800) 872-1259.

*Arkansas Tourism Development Act

During the Governor's Conference on Tourism held last March, market researchers retained by the state reported that Arkansas did not offer enough attractions to offset competition from surrounding states. The new act offers economic incentives to private developers of attractions through sales tax credits if they can convince state officials that they intend to attract at least 25% of their visitor traffic from outside Arkansas. Companies spending $1 million or more can earn enough sales tax credits over 10 years to recoup 25% of their approved project costs. Developers of projects costing $500,000 to $999,999 have five years to recoup up to 10% of their approved costs. Eligible projects include cultural or historical sites, recreation or entertainment facilities, scenic areas, theme parks, amusement or entertainment parks, indoor or outdoor theaters offering live performances, botanical gardens, or educational centers. In some cases, the purchase and expansion of an existing attraction may qualify the developer for the sales tax credits. So far, one project is under consideration: a dude ranch that would be constructed in Jasper, in northwest Arkansas. For more information about the attraction incentive, call Carla Edwards, tourism development consultant, (501) 682-1676.

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