Tourism leaders gear up for a super event | News
JONESBORO — The 2022 tourism system is underway in Arkansas, and the hospitality industry is poised for a big year. But they also need to prepare for April 8, 2024, said Kim Williams, travel writer for Arkansas’ Parks and Tourism Division.
“It’s going to be a tourism event like we’ve never seen,” Williams said of what has been labeled the Great North American Eclipse. And she said Jonesboro, Paragould and Piggott would be in the perfect places for skywatchers to see. Neighboring communities will also be able to benefit, Williams told area leaders Tuesday at Arkansas State University’s Delta Center for Economic Development.
Williams helped prepare the state for an event that will attract the greatest mass of tourists for a single, brief event in state history.
She pointed to what happened in South Carolina, a geographically similar sized state, during a solar eclipse in 2017.
“They had 1.6 million visitors,” Williams said. “For the eclipse – I’m not talking about the whole year – I’m talking about a single event with an economic impact of $269 million. That’s why I say it will be an event like Arkansas has never seen in its history.
Unlike a major sporting event or festival in one city, the eclipse will generate revenue for multiple cities across two-thirds of the state, she said.
A narrow strip from Texarkana State northeast to Jonesboro will benefit the most from the totality of the eclipse. But there will be so many visitors to the states that hotels, motels, campgrounds and other hosts north and south can reap the benefits.
Many people who come here for the eclipse will never have been to Arkansas before, Williams said. She cited Casper, Wyoming as an example.
“More than 75% of visitors who came to Casper in August 2017 for the eclipse had never been to Casper or Wyoming before,” Williams said. “For us tourism people, it’s exciting. Have hundreds of thousands of people who have never been to Arkansas before.
Mayor Charles Snapp of Walnut Ridge said the Rhea Hotel, which his family previously owned, began receiving requests for rooms years ago for the 2024 eclipse.
“When they arrive, they will disperse. They’re going to see everything in the area,” Snapp said. “That’s why we have to think regionalism in northeast Arkansas.”
State Tourism Director Travis Napper suggested communities schedule events for the weekend before the eclipse, which falls on a Monday. While he warned against price gouging, Napper said accommodation prices should be adjusted to reflect supply and demand.
Snapp and Paragould Mayor Josh Agee said they hope the Northeast Arkansas Mayors Caucus can help coordinate events across the region.
Williams said communities in Arkansas won’t need to compete.
“We are only competing with Texas. We have to beat Texas,” she said.