Despite fewer events, March sets tax record
Hospitality tax collections in March were up a record-breaking 101.5%, and given that number skyrocketed despite large event cancellations and pandemic capacity limitations, Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison said he anticipates “the biggest summer in the history of Hot Springs” is to come.
“Considering Oaklawn was operating at very low capacity, all conventions were canceled for the month, St. Patrick’s Day festivities were canceled, and the state basketball tournament was at 50% capacity, this is truly an amazing number,” Arrison said in a Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission memo sent Wednesday.
The March collection increase came out to about $380,424 compared to 2020. Restaurants were up 67.49% and hotels were up 420.71%. This was the largest collection month in the history of the tax, Arrison said in the memo.
According to the ad commission Variance
Report issued April 30, the top five restaurants during March were, in order: Chick-fil-A, Texas Roadhouse, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, Olive Garden and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. The top five hotels were, in order: Embassy Suites, Arlington Hotel, Double Tree by Hilton, The Hotel Hot Springs & Spa, and The Waters.
The previous tax collection record was set last August, but that was only due to the end of a grace period put in place to assist with COVID-19 pandemic financial strains placed on businesses, according to Arrison.
“Our previous record-high month was August of last year with $705,370 collected,” he said. “That amount was due to the payment of taxes from previous months that were allowed through the grace period we extended due to the pandemic. A better comparison is our collections for the same period in 2019 which were $687,664. We exceeded that number by 9.8%.”
The 3% hospitality tax is collected by the ad commission from prepared food and lodging establishments within the Hot Springs city limits. The money is used to advertise and promote the city, as well as operate the Hot Springs Convention Center.
Arrison said the increase in dollars spent with these establishments during March “says more about the product of Hot Springs.”
“People are looking for places like Hot Springs, they’re anxious to get out, they want to do things, and we have just everything that they’re looking for,” he said. “We have the national park and its 100th anniversary, which has brought us a lot of publicity; we have lakes, we have horse racing, casinos, a scenic downtown, mountains and trails and hiking.
“People are looking for a destination like Hot Springs. They want to get out of the big cities, and we fit the bill.”
Arrison expects April tax collections to prove even bigger than March.