Big Business in the Outdoors08/28/2015
Some folks say Arkansas is a football state, or a Razorback state. In Northeast Arkansas, they may say we’re a Red Wolves state. During the winter, we may be a basketball state.
But you know what Arkansas ALWAYS is? We are always an outdoors state. We are always a hunting and fishing state.
I was reminded of that again last Sunday at the weigh-in for the Forrest Wood Cup, a bass-fishing tournament on Lake Ouachita named for Arkansas’s own outdoors legend, Forrest Wood of Flippin. By inventing Ranger Boats, Forrest changed fishing in Arkansas and helped change the economy of this state.
You could see the result last weekend. The tournament is a BIG event. It has been called the Super Bowl of bass fishing. But judging by the enthusiasm I saw at the weigh-in, that may be giving the Super Bowl a little too much credit.
Consider these numbers from this terrific four-day event:
• Total attendance was 63,408, including an overflow crowd in the arena for the final weigh-in.
• Visitors came from at least 39 states and three countries.
• The final-day show was sold out, with 146 exhibitors filling the Hot Springs Convention Center.
• This was the fourth Forrest Wood Cup held in Hot Springs — a record for any city — and no doubt it won’t be the last.
All told, the tournament could have a direct economic impact of $6 million on the Hot Springs area. Once the dollars make their way through the economy, it could add up to an impact of between $20 million and $30 million.
Fishing is big business. But if you live in Arkansas, you already knew that. Besides our people, our greatest resources are our natural resources. We are a wonderland for outdoorsmen, for hikers and bikers, for anyone who wants to enjoy God’s awe-inspiring handiwork.
We often market Arkansas as a great place to live and work, a great place to start a business — and that it is — but don’t forget that we’re also a great place to play.
The folks in Hot Springs understand. Their city remains the No. 1 tourism destination in the state because of its natural attractions and events. So far this calendar year, hospitality tax collections are up 7 percent in the Spa City — and that bodes well for all of Arkansas.
Tourism is the No. 2 industry in Arkansas, and events like the Forrest Wood Cup have a very positive impact on the economy of our state. Whether it’s a bass fishing tournament in Hot Springs; the Bikes, Blues and Barbecue weekend in Fayetteville; or the blues festival in Helena, Arkansas’s special events attract visitors from all over the world.
And once we get ’em here, once they see everything that Arkansas has to offer, they come back. Again and again.