After taking a slight dip in June, Fort Smith and Van Buren tourism tax collections continued in July a trend of solid year-over-year gains.
Unfortunately, a statewide measure of tourism growth declined in June, ending 10 consecutive months of increases.
Hospitality tax collections in Fort Smith during July totaled $68,479, up 4.2% compared to July 2011. Also, the July number is likely to be revised higher when a late payment is included. In June, the city’s hospitality tax collection fell 2.6% compared to June 2011. The city collects a 3% tax on lodging.
For the first seven months of 2012, Fort Smith hospitality tax collections totaled $454,202, up 7.5% compared to $422,378 in the 2011 period.
“Some of the increase in July is due to the timing of the Jehovah’s Witnesses conferences. All three sessions took place in June of last year and two of them took place this July, accounting for much of that increase,” explained Claude Legris, executive director of the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Legris said August may also see an increase resulting from the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting held in Fort Smith, and spillover from the Babe Ruth baseball tournament held in Van Buren He also said the higher gas prices have not had as big a toll on tourism and business travel as previously feared.
“Hotel folks tell me in light of the national economic news that we have been doing well for the summer of 2012. While there were initial predictions of very large spikes in gas prices, people still made their vacation plans and then followed through since gas prices did not spike as predicted,” Legris said.
Van Buren hospitality tax collections during July were $35,182, up 6.1% over July 2011.. The June collections were up just 0.92% compared to June 2011.
For the first seven months of 2012, tourism tax collections in Van Buren totaled $287,489, up 6.6% compared to the $269,696 in the 2011 period. The city collects a 1% tax on lodging and a 1% prepared food tax.
“After a slower than anticipated June, July numbers have rebounded in part due to increased events in the area,” said Maryl Koeth, executive director of the Van Buren Advertising & Promotions Commission. “I expect August numbers to reflect a slight increase from the Babe Ruth World Series, but also the traditional back to school slow down in leisure travel and spending will probably temper that increase.”
SECTOR EMPLOYMENT, STATE FIGURES
Employment in the Fort Smith region’s tourism industry was an estimated 8,700 during July, down from 8,800 in June and unchanged from July 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.
June collections of Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax was $1.339 million, down 3.48% compared to June 2011.
For the first six half of 2012, the 2% statewide tourism tax has generated $6.169 million, up 6% compared to the 2011 period. Collection of the statewide tax was $12.025 million during 2011, up 4.6% compared to $11.492 million during 2010.
Arkansas’ tourism sector (leisure & hospitality) employed 102,900 during July, down from the 104,300 during June and ahead of the 99,600 during July 2011. The sector reached an employment high of 104,900 in April 2012.