CAPC Finance Director Rick Bright reported that collections through the end of July (YTD) are down .6 percent compared to the same period last year even though July was a good month overall. He said the CAPC should see a bit of an increase once he completes negotiations with Airbnb to get tax collections from their local providers, and stated it was only a matter of time, maybe by year’s end, before those collections start to roll in.
Commissioner Terry McClung observed, however, the revenue stream has been flat, and they have stayed under budget only because they have withheld expenses. He expected they would figure next year’s budget differently based on this year’s experience.
ED Mike Maloney reported on the increase of the number of hits on social media and innovative strategies being employed by their media partners. He sees considerable activity from XNA because he geofences it to catch arrivals at the airport. He said the tactic of reaching out to new markets such as Chicago and beyond has proven successful. Commissioner Susan Harman said she has seen visitors from Arizona and California, so the change in marketing strategy seems to be working.
Maloney said he is now targeting Las Vegas, Des Moines and Colorado. He noted there was a nine percent increase in July over last year and lots of restaurant activity. “Being an eternal optimist, I think we’ll turn out okay,” he said.
McClung said he understood these strategies are the marketing tools of the future, but the number of heads in beds has been flat. “We’re working hard at it, but revenue is not increasing,” he said.
Commissioner David Mitchell commented they were spending a lot just to tread water, but the alternative could be worse, so he asked, “Why do folks come here?”
Maloney replied visitors come to Eureka Springs for various reasons and that’s why he targets niche markets. McClung added it is the quality of the experience that brings folks back to town. Harman said word of mouth advertising is critical because if visitors like their experience, they will spread the word. Mitchell said from what his guests have said, folks come here just to relax, not to be entertained.
Maloney commented he has heard Eureka Springs described as the biggest amusement park in the world without a gate.
Commissioner Carol Wright said long ago she came here and liked the cabins nearby, the springs, the history and the way the town looks. She said, “Eureka Springs is a truly magical place. Once you come here, the charm stays with you.”
Harman remarked it sounded like they need to use one-on-one testimonials in promotional videos.
Maloney also mentioned Arkansas Parks and Tourism determined the actual cost by a city to bring in one dollar from tourism. He said figures indicate the average spend per day per person in Eureka Springs equals $241.19. After all the figuring is done, the arithmetic indicated Fayetteville spent $.53 to get a dollar, Bentonville spent $.48, and Eureka Springs spent $.43. Maloney commented this meant to him the CAPC has maybe the most efficient ad spending in Northwest Arkansas.
Commissioners agreed to start working on the 2018 budget at the Sept.27 workshop.
Maloney reminded commissioners that Bikes, Blues & BBQ weekend will begin Sept. 22, and he expects 10,000 motorcycles to visit the area with many, many more descending upon Fayetteville and the I-49 corridor. “We get the surge,” he said. Jon Walker at the Farm will host a concert during the weekend.
Walker will also put on his annual Hillberry Festival Oct. 12-14 at the Farm, and is expecting at least 3000 attendees to camp out for the event.
Also, this October will be the first “The Halloween City” experience in town with a variety of activities. Promoters intend to expand this to a month-long experience next year.
Next workshop will be Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 4 p.m., at the CAPC office, and the next regular meeting will be Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 6 p.m., in the Auditorium lobby.