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Tourism bouncing back in Little Rock despite pandemic

Although we are still in a pandemic, tourism appears to be back in Little Rock and city officials are ready for it.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Tourism in the Capitol City is ready to boom, and the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau is ready for it.

"You see visitors coming back and more tourists in the destinations," President Gina Gemberling said. "We were hoping that summer travel would come back this year, so we figured this was a nice way to promote all of our attractions."

That comes in the form of an attractions pass, a new promotion from the visitors bureau aimed at showcasing things to do in Little Rock. With tourism bouncing back after down years due to COVID-19, Gemberling said it's a way to show all there is to do in Little Rock.

"The longer they stay in the destination, the more dollars they're spending in the destination," she said. "Then hopefully, coming back to the destination."

That money is huge. According to the bureau, if there was no tourism, Little Rock residents would have to pay an additional $600 a year in taxes.

There's things to remember before tourists head to town though. Despite lower numbers compared to just a few months ago, COVID-19 is still very much here in central Arkansas.

"Any trend upwards, especially a sustained trend upwards, you know, gets out attention," said Mike Cima, the state epidemiologist for Arkansas. "You know, raises the collective blood pressure, I think."

Cima said he gets it – people are tired of COVID. Cases have been low, but they're starting to tick back up.

They're still looking at the data, but there could be waning immunity from booster shots. It's one reason why Cima said staying informed of COVID-19 in Arkansas is important for any summer plans.

"There is a plethora of data available that folks can access on a daily basis that updates every single day," Cima said. "That would help, you know, allow them to make informed decisions about how they go about their daily routines."

So keep an eye on what's going on with COVID before you head on vacation – it's the same thing Arkansas officials are doing too.

"It will continue, I think, in the future," Gemberling said. "We'll always keep our eye on it, we'll want to know what's happening and just be ready if we need to pivot again."