Representatives from area businesses joined with members of the Spring River Area Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Hardy and White River Planning and Development June 9 in the Hardy Gym for the Welcome to Arkansas Program. The goal of this program is to help business owners with ways in which to keep tourists in the area.
Guest speaker, Scott Sudduth, program coordinator with the Arkansas Hospitality Association from Little Rock, outlined reasons tourists leave the area and ways to encourage them to stay and play in the Spring River Area.
Sudduth said that local convenience stores are some of the prime targets for tourists. Many stop for gas and food and ask about local attractions. If these employees don't tell the tourist what there is to do in the area, they will be gone to another place rather than staying in the area.
He says the Arkansas State Parks and Tourism Department conducted a survey and found out that all too often, when asked what there is to do in the area, many employees knew little or nothing about area attractions. This, Sudduth said "is one thing that must be addressed at the front line to keep these tourists in our area."
Sudduth said that the first thing that will be done to help with this issue is providing area businesses with laminated cards with the top 10 attractions in each city. He said these will be determined on a city by city basis. He said that when these cards come in, local businesses can come by the area chamber offices and pick these up.
In addition, there will be lapel pins that will be worn by employees that let tourists know that the business is tourist friendly. He said that a tourists is "someone who goes from one spot to another with an expendible income and you can change their mind and persuade them to stay."
In another survey, Sudduth said that many people who had never visited the state had either a negative or vague impression of the state, but after visiting, their expectations were exceeded.
In addition to the cards and pins, Sudduth said that in his home town of Paris, Ark., the city is using incentives. The city is honoring employees who have helped with tourism efforts by naming them as a hospitality person with their name and picture appearing in the local paper.
He said those who should consider involvement, are any local business which serves customers or offers a unique experience, whether it be a restaurant, shop, tourist attraction or other stop that would enhance a visitor's stay in the area.
Sudduth said the only cost associated with this program is sitting down with the employees and personnel and educating them on ways to increase tourism.