The travel industry in Arkansas and across the globe has been hit hard over the past year. We’ve all the seen the headlines about lost revenue and economic instability because of COVID-19. Yet, hope is now on the horizon, and people are ready to get back out and explore.
Travel’s ability to bounce back after periods of economic hardship is why the theme of this year’s National Travel and Tourism Week, May 2-8, is the Power of Travel. The week serves as an opportunity to remind visitors and Arkansans alike about the incredible value the travel industry holds not just for our local economy and workforce, but to our community’s identity and culture — and to illustrate travel’s ability to help power recovery efforts.
Travel and tourism are an important part of who we are as a community. Nationally, travel generated $2.6 trillion in economic output, supported 17 million American jobs and delivered a $51 billion trade surplus to the U.S. in 2019, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
In Arkansas, tourism contributed $7.68 billion to our state in 2019, and during that time more than 36 million visitors traveled throughout The Natural State. Also in 2019, the tourism industry provided jobs for more than 68,000 Arkansans.
However, this vital revenue source stemming from business and leisure travelers was severely diminished during the pandemic. In 2020, the entire U.S. travel industry lost half a trillion dollars in travel-related spending. With such losses, a broader economic recovery hinges on recovery within the travel industry.
Arkansas’s tourism industry was also significantly impacted, but fortunately, we were well-positioned for the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re known as The Natural State for a reason, from our outdoor recreation opportunities to our wide-open spaces — which are exactly what travelers have been looking for during this public health emergency.
While the rapid pace of vaccinations has provided hope that a return to normal is on its way, a resurgence in travel demand is not inevitable. With the right measures in place, we can get people moving again in a safe and healthy way, restore our workforce and help power a broader economic recovery.
The road ahead is challenging, but the travel industry is resilient and has an incredible ability to bounce back from hard times. This is the toughest challenge the U.S. travel industry has ever faced, but we know travel is one of the best-equipped industries to lead a revival.
By Stacy Hurst, Secretary, Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism
About Arkansas Tourism
Arkansas Tourism, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, strives to expand the economic impact of travel and tourism in the state and enhance the quality of life for all Arkansans. The division manages 14 Arkansas Welcome Centers and employs more than 60 staff members across The Natural State. For more information, visit www.arkansas.com.