Despite a relative slowdown during June, regional hospitality tax collections remain positive, with January-June collections up more than 8% in Fort Smith and up almost 6% in Van Buren.
Employment in the region’s leisure and hospitality sector is also improving.
Hospitality tax collections in Van Buren for the first six months of 2012 totaled $248,361, up 5.94% compared to the $234,416 in the 2011 period.
June collections in Van Buren were $36,527, up just 0.92% compared to June 2011. The city collects a 1% tax on lodging and a 1% prepared food tax.
“I think the hotter than normal June weather slowed some travel, but we’re still seeing an upward trend from 2011,” said Maryl Koeth, executive director of the Van Buren Advertising & Promotions Commission. “(I’m) looking for July and August numbers to be better due to increased events in the Fort Smith/Van Buren area.”
Hospitality tax collections in Van Buren during 2011 totaled $429,561, up 2.34% compared to 2010. The 2011 collections end a two-year skid in Van Buren.
For the first six months of 2012, Fort Smith hospitality tax collections totaled $385,723 up 8.1% compared to $356,677 in the 2011 period. The year-to-date gain through June is down from 11.1% through the first five months. The city collects a 3% tax on lodging.
Hospitality tax collections in Fort Smith during June totaled $74,951, down 2.6% compared to June 2011.
Claude Legris, executive director of the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the decline results from a “fluctuation in date reservations for two of the three sessions of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses District Conferences.”
The three-weekend event, which brings about 12,000 members of the congregation to Fort Smith, was held in June during 2011.
“This year we had one session of CCJW in June and then the annual convention of the Statewide United Methodist Church. As a result we had two-thirds of the CCJW conferences in the month of July which will be reflected in collections for next month,” Legris explained.
Hospitality tax collections in Fort Smith totaled $708,141 during 2011, up 4.3% compared to the 2010 period. It was the second consecutive year for a hospitality tax collection gain in Fort Smith.
SECTOR EMPLOYMENT, STATE FIGURES
Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 8,800 during June, up from 8,600 in May and unchanged from June 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The sector reached an employment high of 9,800 in August 2008.
Average monthly employment in the sector is on a two-year decline. During 2007, 2008 and 2009, the average monthly employment was 9,300. That fell to 8,700 during 2010 and 8,500 during 2011.
Collections of a statewide 2% tourism tax generated $4.83 million during the first five months of 2012, up 9.06% compared to the 2011 period. The May report shows collection of $1.166 million, up 7,72% compared to the May 2011 report. Collection of the statewide tax was $12.025 million during 2011, up 4.6% compared to $11.492 million during 2010.
Employment in Arkansas’ tourism industry was 104,600 during June, up from 103,900 in May and well ahead of the 98,300 in June 2011. The sector reached an employment high of 104,900 in April 2012.