Area hospitality tax collections trend positive through May

Hospitality tax collections in Fort Smith and Van Buren point to an uptick in area business and tourism travel, while a federal agency report indicates a national downturn in travel and tourism spending during the first quarter of 2014.

For the first five months of 2014 the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau collected $307,168, up 1.7% compared to the same period of 2013. The city collects a 3% tax on lodging.

May hospitality tax collections in Fort Smith totaled $65,730, up 6.9% compared to May 2013.

However, summer collections are expected to decline based on a convention schedule change by the Jehovah Witnesses.

“We anticipate collections decreases for both June and July of 2014 due to the Christian Congregation of Jehovah Witnesses (CCJW) holding only international conferences for the summer of this year in celebration of their Centennial Year,” said Claude Legris, executive director of the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau. “As a result, we expect to show substantial increases in the summer of 2015 when CCJW will meet in Fort Smith for four consecutive weeks.”

Collections in Fort Smith during 2013 totaled $731,057, down 2% 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. The 2011 collections were up 4.3% compared to 2010.

Hospitality tax collections in Van Buren for the first five months of 2014 total $178,758, up 2.16% compared to the same period in 2013. The city collects a 1% tax on lodging and a 1% prepared food tax. May receipts totaled $37,734, up 2.3%.

The city has enjoyed three consecutive months of gains – up 2.9% in March, up 2.1% in April and up 2.3% in May. February was down 0.9%, but that followed a 4.4% increase in January collections.

“We continue to see a slow steady climb in revenues for all hospitality sectors, with lodging seeing the bigger increase in revenue over 2013. I anticipate continued slow growth over the remainder of the summer and fall,” said Maryl Koeth, executive director of the Van Buren Advertising & Promotion Commission.

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.

ARKANSAS TOURISM BOOST
Collections of Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax during the first four months of 2014 totaled $3.96 million, up 6.5% compared to the $3.716 million during the same period of 2013.

The 2% tourism tax set a record in 2013 by reaching $12.716 million, and Richard Davies, the state’s tourism chief, predicted 2014 would be even better for Arkansas’ tourism and travel sector. March and April set records for collections of the state’s tourism tax for the months.

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.

NATIONAL NUMBERS
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported June 27 that travel and tourism spending in the U.S. fell 1% in the first quarter after a 4.5% increase during the fourth quarter of 2013.

Real spending in the “recreation and entertainment” category dropped 11.2% during the quarter after posting a 0.9% gain in the fourth quarter of 2013. Real spending in the “food services and drinking places” category fell 3.5% in the first quarter after rising 7.4% in the fourth quarter.

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The BEA report also included the following:
• Employment in the travel and tourism industries decelerated, increasing 2.1% in the first quarter of 2014 after increasing 2.7% (revised) in the fourth quarter of 2013;

• Total tourism-related spending was $1.5 trillion in the first quarter of 2014. It consisted of $873.1 billion (58%) of direct tourism spending and $625.7 billion (42%) of indirect tourism-related spending; and

• Total tourism-related employment was 7.7 million jobs in the first quarter of 2014 and consisted of 5.4 million (71%) direct tourism jobs and 2.3 million (29%) indirect tourism-related jobs.

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