Little Rock Visitors Bureau revenue rebounded in 2021 after pandemic-induced drop

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The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau’s total revenue rebounded last year by about $2 million after a pandemic-induced drop in 2020, according to the bureau’s annual report.

Similarly, additional measures associated with tourism in Little Rock increased in 2021 after the coronavirus crisis initially rocked the hospitality industry in 2020 as individuals stayed home and avoided travel.

The visitors bureau’s total revenue last year was $17.7 million, according to the 2021 report.

In 2020, total revenue was $15.6 million. In 2019, revenue was $20.1 million.

Last year, 83% of the $17.7 million, or $14.8 million, came from tax receipts, the visitors’ office reported – up 23% from 2020.

The second-largest revenue category was related to the Statehouse Convention Center, at 6%, followed by the Robinson Center and “meeting and technical services,” each at 3%.

Little Rock levies taxes on hotels, motels and prepared meals to fund the operations of the Visitors Bureau, which oversees downtown sites as well as promotional efforts for the Capital.

In her executive summary of the 2021 report, Gretchen Hall, outgoing President and CEO of the Visitors Bureau, wrote: “Compared to 2020, total accommodation revenue increased by 48% and prepared food revenue increased by 18%. Accommodation is now only 21% behind 2019 figures while prepared food collections have increased by 4%.

Facilities management revenue increased 44% from a year earlier, but remained $2.3 million below its 2019 total, Hall wrote.

“While this is huge progress, a full recovery will take time,” Hall wrote.

Hotel occupancy in Little Rock was 55.1% in 2021 compared to 40.9% in 2020 and 58.8% in 2019, according to the latest annual report.

In the downtown convention district, occupancy was 55.9% last year, down from 36.7% in 2020 and 72% in 2019.

The number of events at facilities run by the visitors bureau has also increased from 2020.

The 185 events held at the Robinson Center marked an increase from the 78 held in 2020, but down from the 243 held in 2019. At the Statehouse Convention Center, 85 events took place last year, compared to 35 in 2020 and 160 in 2019.

In a section on the outlook for the 2021 report, Hall wrote that she was “more than optimistic about the future of this organization and the tourism industry in Little Rock.”

His last day with the visitors’ office is March 22, after which Hall will become the new chief operating officer of Destinations International, an industry group.

“While the pandemic and its large-scale effects are still widespread, it is clear that tourism has already played an important role in recovery efforts in Little Rock and across Arkansas,” he said. she writes. “The [visitors bureau] has long been the foundation of Little Rock’s tourism industry and 2022 will see us build on that foundation and adapt to our collective ‘new normal’, all while focusing on transition and future vision. »

“Paramount” for the future is the completion of a tourism master plan, Hall wrote.

She suggested that as part of the planning process, the visitors’ bureau should pursue the establishment of a local sports commission and the development of sports facilities which the agency has advocated for, among others.

Work has begun on the master plan, and it is expected to be delivered later this year, Hall noted in his summary.

Gina Gemberling, who most recently served as senior vice president of sales and marketing for the visitors bureau, has been tapped by the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission to replace Hall.

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