The Sentinel-Record

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.

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