The 2012 rebound in the Fort Smith metro business travel and tourism has not continued into 2013, with year-to-date collections down in Fort Smith and Van Buren.
August collections in Van Buren were $34,303, down 3.6% from the $35,569 in August 2012. The city collects a 1% tax on lodging and a 1% prepared food tax. Collections between January and August are $286,374, just under the $287,753 during the same period of 2013.
During 2012, Van Buren hospitality tax collections totaled $425,554, up 5.2% compared to the 2011 collections. Hospitality tax collections in Van Buren during 2011 totaled $429,561, up 2.34% compared to 2010. The 2011 collections ended a two-year skid in Van Buren.
Maryl Koeth, executive director of the Van Buren Advertising & Promotion Commission, said collections from hotels are up a little less than 1% for the year, and restaurants are down about 1%.
Koeth said she is hearing anecdotal reports of state parks and private facilities seeing more business from campers and RV users who were displaced from parks operated by federal agencies. The more than two-week federal shutdown resulted in the closure of federal parks.
“It is a little soon to see any real impact from the loss of revenue for furloughed workers and the effect that will have on fall travel,” Koeth said.
A potential near-term business generator is the fall change of colors.
“We're seeing an increase in train passengers as we near the peak of fall foliage, which is still a couple of weeks away for the River Valley,” Koeth said.
August collections in Fort Smith were $58,847, just under the $59,007 in August 2012. The city collects a 3% tax on lodging. For the first eight months of 2013, collections total $498,030, down 2.9% compared to the same period in 2012.
During 2012, Fort Smith hospitality tax collections totaled $746,182, up 5.37% compared to the 2011 period.
Claude Legris, executive director of the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau, said hotel occupancy rates were down about 1% with rates remaining flat.
Legris said in an interview prior to Wednesday’s agreement by Congress to end the federal shutdown that tourism will be hurt if the shutdown continues.
“With the fall tourist season just starting we’re in hopes that the government shutdown will be resolved soon so that the National Historic Site can reopen, particularly for motor coach tours that have been booked over the past year,” Legris said.
TOURISM EMPLOYMENT, ARKANSAS COLLECTIONS
Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 9,500 during August, unchanged from July and above the 9,300 in August 2012. The sector reached an employment high of 9,800 in August 2008.
Average monthly employment in the Fort Smith metro tourism sector ended a two year decline in 2012. During 2007, 2008 and 2009, the average monthly employment was 9,300. That fell to 8,700 during 2010, 8,500 during 2011, but rose to 9,000 during 2012.
Arkansas’ tourism sector (leisure & hospitality) employed 101,400 during August, down from 101,600 during July, and below the 102,300 during August 2012. At a revised 103,700, January 2013 marked a new employment high in the sector.
Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax receipts totaled $7.663 million for the first seven months of 2013, up 2.91% compared to the $7.446 million during the same period of 2012.
Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax receipts totaled $12.405 million during 2012, up 3.16% compared to the $12.025 million during 2011. The gains marked the third consecutive year of improving tourism tax revenue and was a record total for the tax.