LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Data released on September 14 by the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism shows that Arkansas’ tourism industry experienced record-breaking visitation in 2021 and has recovered after a significant decline in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a press release from Arkansas Tourism, the state saw more than 41 million visitors in 2021 compared to 29.2 million in 2020 and 36.3 million in 2019.

The release says lodging spending increased 49% after a fall of 29% in 2020. The rebound led to lodging spending exceeding its 2019 level by 5%.

The data was released during the Arkansas Hospitality Association’s annual convention in Little Rock.

“Arkansas’ moniker as The Natural State provided resiliency for the tourism industry during the challenges of the past several years,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “These numbers illustrate that Arkansas is in the midst of a public perception turning point when it comes to our national profile as a tourist destination. Together we can keep that momentum strong as we head into 2023 and beyond.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Visitor spending, visitor-supported jobs and business sales generated $1.1 billion in tax collections that support local, state and federal government operations. State and local taxes alone topped $653 million in 2021.
  • National park visitation in Arkansas rose 23% above its 2019 pre-pandemic level to just under four million visits, while hunting and fishing licenses issued to nonresidents more than doubled relative to 2019.
  • In 2021, tourism-supported jobs accounted for 5.6% of all jobs in Arkansas.
  • 23% of Arkansas tourism jobs were lost in 2020. The travel recovery in 2021 welcomed a return of tourism jobs, which rose to 95% of its 2019 level.
  • The job recovery in key industries in 2021 reached 98% of pre-pandemic levels in the restaurant industry, 96% in recreational businesses and 89% in lodging.
  • Each household in Arkansas would need to be taxed an additional $759 to replace the visitor-generated taxes received by Arkansas state and local governments in 2021.
  • Average room rates at hotels in the state increased by 13%.

“It’s satisfying to see these numbers and know that we’re achieving our goal to improve the economy of our state,” said Travis Napper, director of Arkansas Tourism. “Not only that, we have the great privilege of sharing the scenic beauty, authentic culture and unique wonder of The Natural State.”

The full report can be found here. For more information on the 2021 Arkansas Tourism Economic Impact Report, call 501-324-9611.