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Fort Smith, Van Buren tourism tax numbers off to a good start

Editor’s note: This story is a component of The Compass Report. The quarterly Compass Report is managed by The City Wire. Supporting sponsors of The Compass Report are Cox Communications and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Fort Smith and Van Buren hospitality tax collections for the first two months of 2014 are off to a good start compared to the year-over-year declines both cities posted in 2013.

February hospitality tax collections in Van Buren were $32,342, up 1.3% compared to February 2013. The February increase follows a 3.6% gain in January. For the first two months of 2014 the Van Buren Advertising and Promotion Commission has collected $65,751, up 3% compared to the same period in 2013.

The city collects a 1% tax on lodging and a 1% prepared food tax.

Collections in Van Buren during 2013 totaled $423,221.83, remarkably close to the $423,222.91 during 2012. 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.

“Despite bad weather during February, tax receipts still saw a slight improvement over 2013. Lodging receipts are still well ahead of 2013 through the first two months of this year,” said Maryl Koeth, executive director of the Van Buren Advertising and Promotion Commission.

Koeth said the restaurant sector in Van Buren continues to struggle, and may do so until more travelers roll through the area.

“Restaurants receipts continue to lag behind last year by about 1.5%. I anticipate this to be the trend for the next 2 or 3 months until the traditional vacation travel season begins in June. I think we will see a slight improvement for March as more people stayed closer to home for Spring Break this year,” Koeth said.

FORT SMITH
February hospitality tax collections in Fort Smith totaled $54,315, down 2% compared to February 2013. The February dip follows a 13% gain in January.

However, for the first two months of the year the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau has collected $110,314, up 4.9% compared to the same period of 2013. The city collects a 3% tax on lodging.

Collections in Fort Smith during 2013 totaled $731,057, down 2% compared to the same period in 2012. The gap in collections improved through the year with first quarter collections were down more than 6% compared to the 2012 quarter. For the fourth quarter, collections were up 0.62% compared to the 2012 quarter.

During 2012, Fort Smith hospitality tax collections totaled $746,182, up 5.37% compared to the 2011 period. The 2011 collections were up 4.3% compared to 2010.

ARKANSAS COLLECTIONS
January revenue from Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax was $787,043, ahead of the $751,792 in January 2013. The state did not have February numbers as of April 21.

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The 2% tourism tax set a record in 2013 by reaching $12.716 million, and the state’s tourism chief is predicting that 2014 could be even better for Arkansas’ tourism and travel sector.

The 2013 collections were up 2.5% compared to the $12.405 million in 2012, and well ahead of the $11.378 million slump in 2009 when national economic conditions proved tough on Arkansas’ tourism industry.

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