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Tourism numbers rise in Hot Springs

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Tourism numbers rise in Hot Springs

was written by , 2019-08-28 08:29:43

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HOT SPRINGS — Visitor spending has increased 29% in Hot Springs since the last comprehensive tourism industry research study in 2013, according to the latest study released last week by Visit Hot Springs.

Visitor spending reached a record $677 million in 2018, according to research by Longwoods International, which presented the report to the public and the tourism industry at the Hot Springs Convention Center on Aug. 19.

According to the report, 85% of 2018 visitors were white, 9% were black, 7% were Hispanic and 7% were “other.”

The top special interest activity for travel was visiting historical places, and the No. 2 special interest activity for travel was cultural activities and attractions, 15% of survey-takers reported.

One audience member, Jeff Stamps, expressed concern over the low numbers of nonwhite visitors and posed the idea of using the increased interest in historical and cultural places as an inclusion tool.

“I was surprised that you were stating that in regards to special interests, historic places and cultural activities was on the high end,” Stamps said. “What do you see Hot Springs doing to go ahead and increase those numbers? And what are you considering doing to take advantage of that?”

“People really look at the history of Hot Springs,” Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison said. “They look at the entire history and look at the gangsters, the baseball, [and] Bojangles going down Central Avenue” — a reference to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, a dancer who celebrated his 66th birthday in 1944 by tap-dancing 2 miles through Hot Springs, according to The Associated Press.

“We’ve got all sorts of history here that nobody else has,” Arrison added.

“And I guess that’s one of my main concerns,” Stamps said, “particularly as it looks at the nonwhite piece of that when we talk about Pleasant Street [or] Black Broadway. What can we do to enhance that and cross some of those nonwhites to the area and increase the flow to the city?”

“I think that we’ve just got to develop that product,” Arrison replied. “Rome wasn’t built in a day. Unfortunately, you know, we built up these other areas, and I think that that’s a next area. … It’s on there along with everything else. We market to everybody.”

Michael Erdman, Longwoods International’s senior vice president of research, explained how the visitor profiles can be beneficial in marketing.

“What that means is you want to know how many people come to Hot Springs, how much they spend, where they come from, the sources of business.”

He said the information helps business owners target places to advertise, ages to cater to and interests to feature in their advertising.

According to the report, in 2018, Hot Springs welcomed 7.9 million visitors, up 18% over 2013. Of these trips, 2.9 million, or 26%, were overnight trips, and 5 million, or 74%, were day trips.

In terms of where to advertise, the report showed 59% of Hot Springs day visitors were from Arkansas, 9% were from California, 7% were from Texas and 5% were from Missouri.

Visitors spent $186 million in restaurants and bars in 2018, according to Erdman, and their purchases in retail stores topped $143 million. Spending in hotels and other accommodations amounted to $129 million, while expenditures on sightseeing, entertainment and recreation reached $142 million. Spending on local transportation such as gas, car rentals, parking and taxis amounted to $78 million.

In terms of how to advertise, 79% of travelers reported consulting social media, according to the report.

“For those of you who are marketing to tourism, travelers, in the past five years, travelers’ ownership of mobile devices has virtually doubled,” Erdman said. “Now smartphones have morphed into a key planning tool, especially when people are traveling. … But now people are using their cellphones to find experiences. And they want immediate action. They want to book things right now.”

The report showed the average age for visitors was 41 — five years younger than the U.S. norm — with 55% being male and 45% female.

“Tourism is obviously very important to your economy here. You’ve had some great records that were broken this year,” Erdman said. “I haven’t seen a lot of places with such an impressive rate of growth over the past five years. Why? Because your product is improving. People have a good time here. It’s not just because you’ve got product, it’s because you’ve been showing people a good time. And obviously some marketing.”

Metro on 08/28/2019



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