Hot Springs releases new tourism numbers

HOT SPRINGS (KATV) - A new study released by Visit Hot Springs digs deeper into who the visitor to the Spa City is and what they do while they're visiting Hot Springs. The study found last year that 6.7 million people visited Hot Springs - making the city still the number one tourist destination in Arkansas.

Out of nearly seven million unique visitors to Hot Springs in 2013, about 40% of those visitors or 2.7 million were overnight visitors (visitors that stay in hotels, rental properties, etc.) Breaking down overnight visitors - 45% are visiting family and friends in the area, while 52% were on marketed leisure trips to places like Hot Springs National Park, Oaklawn, Magic Springs, etc.

The study broke down where visitors to Hot Springs are coming from. Overnight visitors are primarily from Arkansas (21%) and Texas (20%) - 15% of visitors come in from the other surrounding states. The study surprised Visitor's Bureau officials by also showing a decent amount of visitors coming from states like Illinois (4%) and California (6%). The average overnight trip is generally only a long weekend (3.1 days) being marketed as more of a quick getaway destination.

Visit Hot Springs is trying to corner the overnight guest - they typically tend to spend more money ($111 per day versus the day tripper spending roughly $51 per day). Hot Springs shaped up to be cheaper than most US destinations, which also translates into less money being spent in Hot Springs. The average overnighter spends about $205 per day, while the overnighter in Hot Springs spends $111 per day. The money translates to about $523 million spent in Hot Springs by tourists in all of 2013.

Longwoods Travel USA was the company that conducted the study for Visit Hot Springs. The state conducts surveys similar to the one conducted by Longwoods, and Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, said the results don't differ much from the state's studies.

"It pretty much tracks with what we thought, but if you don't check it, who know - we could be missing out on a big market that we didn't even understand was there," said Arrison.

Arrison said the research denoted several markets the visitor's bureau hadn't considered - markets that could be prime for new advertising.

"We want to see where the large percentage of those visitors are coming from so we can target advertising effectively," said Arrison.

One thing the study did find is how visitors are finding out about Hot Springs. Nearly 1 in 2 learned of Hot Springs via the internet.

"You know in the old days you used to have that brochure stuck in your back pocket," said Arrison. "Now everybody's online."