Friday, September 25, 2015

TOP STORY >> Tourism staff visits Cabot

Leader staff writer

Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism’s Welcome Center managers made a stop in Cabot on Wednesday to learn about and help promote the city as part of their bus tour of the central Arkansas region.

Welcome Center managers take a spring and a fall tour visiting four of 12 regions each year. Arkansas has 14 Welcome Centers in the state.

Cabot Days Inn and Suites owner Jay Lallu is on the Cabot Advertising and Promotions Commission. He is also a volunteer board member of the Heart of Arkansas Travel Association that promotes tourism of Central Arkansas.

The Cabot A and P Commission is a sponsor of the Heart of Arkansas Travel Association, which chose Cabot as a tour stop. The Heart of Arkansas Travel Association works with the state’s tourism department.

According to Lallu, the 2 percent hotel tax helps support the state’s parks and tourism departments.

“You don’t get this opportunity often to showcase Cabot. You will see results of the tour within a month,” Lallu said.

“Welcome Centers are a great resource. They are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They get so many travelers who take restroom and Internet breaks. They are beautifully designed with free Wi-Fi service, walking trails, nice restroom facilities and brochure racks. People get maps and ideas to plan where they want to tour,” Lallu explained.

“At Welcome Centers, people from out of state ask managers so many questions; where to go, where to stay, where to eat and what to do. Welcome Centers make recommendations,” Lallu continued.

Lallu said, at Days Inn, they get people who are visiting or being transferred to Little Rock Air Force Base. They get people who stay for weddings and funerals and for school district tournaments and sports tournaments held at city ballparks.

Welcome Center managers went on a tour of Cabot guided by School Superintendent Tony Thurman, Cabot Parks and Recreation director John Crow and Cabot Chamber of Commerce director Amy Williams.

The group made passed by the Cabot High School and Freshman Academy campuses, the Cabot Public Library, Veterans Park Community Center, the Sports and Aquatic Center under construction and Holland Bottom farms.

They were told about CabotFest, the Christmas in Cabot celebration, the Fourth of July celebration and the Strawberry Festival.

The Lonoke County Regional Park, Cabot BMX track, Allman/Bevis Sports Complex and Cabot High School’s Museum of American History were also promoted. Mentioned, too, were Greystone and Rolling Hills golf courses, Allfam Bowling Center and Mean Pig BBQ for being featured on an episode of the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food.”

A list of Cabot restaurants and businesses was requested by the Texarkana Welcome Center managers.

Blytheville Welcome Center assistant manager Danece Burge said after the tour, “I didn’t realize how much Cabot has grown. I wish more people would take care of their city. Blytheville stays stagnate and doesn’t want to improve the town so much.”

“The schools are amazing. It looks like a college campus. I’m impressed with the water park. The sports complex is going to be awesome,” Blytheville Welcome Center assistant manager Charlotte McFarland added.

“I think we put information in the hands of people across the state that can help to promote our city,” Williams said.

According to data collected by the state’s Department of Parks and Tourism, visitors in 2014 spent $37.2 million in Lonoke County. Tourism supported the employment of 317 people and a payroll of $6.2 million.

Tourism in Lonoke County generated $2.2 million in state taxes and $641,507 in local taxes.