LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Lower tax revenues forced the state tourism agency to cut its advertising budget by nearly $1 million, but officials said Thursday that its media strategy for the coming year is to bring more people to the state as the economy recovers.
The only segment of the national tourism economy that’s grown of late is outdoor vacationing, a less expensive option for families that fits well with what Arkansas is spending $5.8 million to advertise.
The Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods agency of Little Rock unveiled its advertising plan for the coming year, contending there is pent-up demand for travel despite the down economy.
"The consumer is cautious, practical and picky," said Wayne Woods of the advertising agency.
Woods and state tourism director Joe David Rice said hospitality-related businesses around the state still have ground to make up, but that they reported healthier numbers for the summer.
"That’s not much consolation," Woods said. "These are tough times."
Most out-of-state visitors to Arkansas come from neighboring states, so the agency is focusing much of its advertising in Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and Oklahoma. But it’s also buying space in specialty magazines that focus on topics such as weddings, mountain biking, fishing, motorcycling and other activities. The agency also developed ads in Spanish and will target African-American publications.
The state has entered into agreements with television gardener and Arkansas resident P. Allen Smith for each to promote the other, and has a similar arrangement with Flippin-based Ranger Boats.
Television advertising will take up $1.83 million, and $1.16 million is budgeted for magazine advertising. The campaign calls for spending $750,000 for online ads, and $390,000 on billboards, ads on TVs at gas pumps and other "out of home" advertising. Another $285,000 is for newspaper ads and $155,000 for radio. Various other promotions such as group travel marketing take up the rest of the budget.
The ads’s slogans include using a "by nature" tagline, with such references as, "Inspiring by nature," "Wholesome by nature," and "Spoiled by nature" with pictures of people eating, boating or getting spa treatments. Other ads show casino-style gambling available in Hot Springs and West Memphis.
Rice noted five major additions to the tourism landscape, including the Ozark Medieval Fortress being built using 13th century techniques as visitors watch. Also new in north Arkansas is the Buffalo River Canopy Tour, a zip line that runs through the hardwoods of the Ozarks.
Little Rock has redeveloped Riverfront Park, bringing new attention to the "petit roche" that gave the city its name. In Jonesboro, a new 1,200-seat country music theater has opened and Texarkana has opened the Four States Equine Center.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is still under construction in Bentonville; organizers have not announced an opening date. Rice said the state is working to build interest in the museum, billing it as the best collection in middle America. The planned $50 million U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith will complement the northwest Arkansas lineup.
Other coming attractions include a reconstruction of the Dyess Colony, a Depression-era resettlement for impoverished farmers. Singer Johnny Cash lived there as a boy, which already has made the town a northeast Arkansas tourist destination.
El Dorado is building a convention center, and Village Creek State Park is developing a golf course that Rice said will be among the nation’s better public courses.
Also coming in Little Rock are two bridges — the reconstruction of the railroad bridge over the Arkansas River at the Clinton Presidential Center and a pedestrian bridge over the Little Maumelle River linking Two Rivers Park to a boat landing near the Interstate 430 bridge over the Arkansas River.