Members of the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission took some time during Monday’s meeting to evaluate Fayetteville’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities when it comes to promoting tourism in the city.
Director Marilyn Heifner said evaluation is something her staff does continuously, but that she wanted to make sure she was on the right track for the coming year.
“We’re not out of ideas by any means, but is there anything you think we need to pursue in order to do a better job?” she asked the group.
The University of Arkansas, a top-level farmers’ market, the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks and a strong sense of community were some of the things pointed out as strengths Fayetteville has when it comes to attracting tourists.
Fayetteville’s location between destination cities like Dallas, Memphis, Kansas City and St. Louis was also a plus, the group said.
The city’s restaurants also got a nod. Commissioners said longstanding establishments like Herman’s and Hugo’s help frame Fayetteville as a more historic and culturally focused place to visit than its neighboring cities.
“Up north, they’re more about the big box (restaurants) and chains,” said Maudie Schmitt, commission chair and co-owner of Cafe Rue Orleans restaurant.
Whenever the topic of weaknesses comes up, Fayetteville is always cited as having a lack of available hotel rooms and a convention center big enough to handle large events. Those two points were brought up immediately during Monday’s meeting.
Commissioner and Ward 3 alderman Justin Tennant called Fayetteville’s parking situation “the elephant in the room” when talking about tourism weaknesses.
“I’ve heard people say the entertainment district is too crowded, but that’s because there’s a lot to do,” said Tennant.
“So I think it’s more of a perception,” he said. “And I think it’s getting better.”
Another point brought up, one that’s more of a commission problem than a tourism problem, was the perception that the group helps fund certain events longer than it should.
The commission takes a lot of heat from locals each year over the annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ motorcycle rally, but the group stopped providing funding for that event years ago.
It did, however, give $2,000 to the two-year-old Bikes, Babes & Bling rally during its most recent award session.
The group unanimously agreed that one of the biggest tourism opportunities Fayetteville has right now centers around next month’s opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.
“You can only stay at Crystal Bridges so many hours, and then you’ve got to find something else to do, which is a great opportunity for us,” said Heifner.
Promoting a scenario in which tourists spend two hours at Crystal Bridges and then two days in Fayetteville could have a huge economic impact on the city.
Other opportunities mentioned were to focus on promoting the soon-to-be-renovated Arkansas Music Pavilion and Cosmopolitan Hotel, and to explore facilities partnerships with the University of Arkansas.
More from the meeting
More information from Monday’s meeting including HMR collections and Visitors Center sales numbers can be found in this month’s A&P Commission meeting recap.