The Hope Tourism Commission met on Tuesday, February 11 to discuss several items on the agenda.
Tax Permit Update
Catherine Cook updated the Commission on the tax permit. Right now, Dominoes and the Wal-Mart Deli are the only 2 outstanding businesses without their permit. All other businesses have their permit and are in compliance. Dominoes has been spoken with several times and corporate seems to be the hold up with Wal-Mart. Cook asked for action from the board to send a formal legal letter stating the business is not in compliance with the ordinance and they have 10 days to get in compliance. Dominoes is paying the tax; they just don’t have the permit. The board discussed sending the letter but decided on taking action by issuing a citation to each business, as was discussed and noted in the minutes from January. Cook stated that the citations will be issued this week.
As far as outstanding payments to the city El Agaves, Angelo’s and Little Caesars are all showing outstanding balances from October of 2019 when the ordinance was passed. Each have their permits and are charging the tax to customers but have not paid the tax to the city. There are also several more businesses that owe outstanding balances from December of 2019. According to the ordinance, a letter will be sent to each establishment stating they are not in compliance and the business may request to come before the Tourism Board for a hearing within 10 days of receiving the letter. The letters will be sent out this week and the board voted to revoke the permit due to non-payment and non-compliance if the balances remain unresolved.
Arkansas Great Southwest Brochure
The Great Southwest does a brochure every other year to place at welcome centers and around towns in Southwest Arkansas. Jeremy Higginbotham will be coming to talk to the board about points of interest in Hempstead County that will be included in the brochure.
Steve Harris, with Hempstead County Economic Development requested $10,000 from the Tourism Commission to help pay expenses associated with building a new website for Hope and Hempstead County. Harris stated that one of issues from the strategic planning meetings was that the EDC needed a new website, and the committee designated to that discussed the possibility of the website being an “overall” website to encompass all entities within Hope and Hempstead County. There would be pages for EDC, chamber, tourism, city and county, as well as a community calendar kept up to date with all community events. Each entity will contribute to the cost associated with building the site and hiring a consultant and the EDC has committed to paying up to $30,000. The board discussed the issue and are interested in contributing but asked that more research be done on total cost and information for the project. The request was tabled until more information can be taken into consideration.
Southwest Arkansas Arts Council Donation
Margaret Moss and Glenda Clark, representing the Arts Council, came before the board to request a donation for hotel rooms for the Four Tops that will be performing at Hempstead Hall on May 2, 2020. Total cost for hotel stay is $1,707.04 and includes the rooms and the tax for the quartet. The question was made as to how this event was being promoted since the tourism commission normally assists with advertising and promotion of events. Moss responded that information has been sent to news outlets in Hope, Magnolia, Arkadelphia and many other surrounding areas for promotion of the event. A motion was made to provide the funds to the Arts Council and accepted.
Advertising for City of Hope
Catherine Cook presented proposed rates on billboard advertising on I-30, Hwy 29 and Hwy 67. Several locations were considered, but since the cost is very high, the board asked Cook to counteroffer the proposal and see if they can get the price lower.
A representative from one of the hotels proposed that if the courthouse tax passes, that the board reduce the tourism tax to 1% from the hotels while that tax is in effect. Hotels charge significantly more that the restaurants, therefore the amount of taxes consumers will have to pay will be much higher and travelers will find rooms elsewhere if they are having to pay so many fees. The board asked that additional information be provided on how much money the hotels are paying in tourism tax, as well as comparisons from hotels in surrounding areas.
The March Tourism Meeting will be announced at a later date.