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Visit Hot Springs CEO optimistic for fall, winter

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While Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison has high hopes for Hot Springs tourism heading into the latter part of the year, he said there is still room for improvement.

The revenue generated from Hot Springs' tourism and hospitality industries traditionally tapers off in November and December, following the summer tourist season and an October that features the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.

Even so, Arrison said he feels the city's tourism and hospitality industries will continue to improve their performance in the latter part of the calendar year.

"It's been a gradual thing," he said. "Every year is built on the year before."

While November and December were the city's ninth- and 10th-most lucrative months in 2016, they have shown consistent growth in revenue. Hospitality taxes collected by the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission in November have grown steadily since 2008, rising from $347,660 that year to $447,460 in 2016. December taxes dipped from $330,566 to $299,473 between 2008 and 2009, but have risen steadily to $422,968 in 2016.

Arrison attributes the increase to the growing popularity of events in those two months, such as the Spa Running Festival in November and Garvan Gardens' Holiday Lights display, which lasts from the latter half of November through the end of December.

Arrison also cites the recently added presence of volleyball tournaments in the Hot Springs Convention Center as a contributing factor, specifically in reference to out-of-town visitors spending money.

"There's something going on consistently in Hot Springs that attracts visitors, but they're also good for the quality of life and for the citizens who live here," he said.

In comparison, Arrison said the Hot Springs Convention Center usually slows down during the holiday season.

"People won't hold meetings because people won't go to them," he said. "There's always just a dead spell on Christmas. People are always with friends and relatives."

Arrison said his goal is for "every month to be like March and July," which are known for the World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade and heavy tourism over the Fourth of July weekend.

"If there was a way that we could beef up December, beef up November, that's something that we need to continue to look at," he said.

In the meantime, Arrison said he is confident the strength of the events, plus the growth of year-round industries such as craft beer and food, will help grow the two months for yet another year.

"People realize that we're not just a horse racing town or a summer town -- that, 'Hey, in the fall, there's quite a lot of things to do,'" he said.

Local on 10/12/2017

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