Wolfinbarger talks tourism at Berryville Rotary meeting

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Randy Wolfingbarger knows a thing or

two about tourism, and now the Berryville

Rotary Club does, too.

Wolfinbarger, who is general manager of

the Best Western Inn of the Ozarks in Eureka

Springs and serves on the Arkansas

Parks and Tourism Commission, spoke to

Berryville Rotarians on Tuesday, Jan. 30,

at the Berryville Fire Station. Wolfinbarger

thanked those in attendance who helped get

him on the commission, saying the Carroll

County Republicans were responsible for

his appointment.

“It took a lot of letter writing. It took a lot

of energy from a lot of people,” Wolfinbarger

said. “That’s how I was able to get on,

and I’m glad to do it.”

Wolfinbarger described growing up on

Rock House Road in Eureka Springs, working

on the farm with his parents until he was

11. That’s when he got a job washing dishes

at a small restaurant in Eureka Springs,

Wolfinbarger said.

“Tourism is all I’ve ever known,” he said.

“I did not like to be a farmer. I did not enjoy

the hayfields in the summertime.”

He’s encouraged a love of tourism in his

sons, Wolfinbarger said, employing both

at Best Western Inn of the Ozarks over the

years. Wolfinbarger said he usually focuses

on tourism in Eureka Springs but pointed

out everything happening on the eastern

side of Carroll County to bring visitors to

the area.

“It’s very impressive what’s going on

here. I think you’re more in tourism than

you think you are,” Wolfinbarger said.

“Otherwise, you wouldn’t be doing murals

on your buildings. If you ever want to get an

idea of what another city is doing, just go to

Fort Smith and see what they’re doing on

their buildings. They’re bringing in crews

from all over the world to paint murals.”

Being on the state tourism commission

has shown him all the tourism opportunities

in Arkansas, Wolfinbarger said, from Mc-

Gehee to Texarkana to El Dorado. McGehee

has one of the finest duck shooting fa-

Wolfinbarger talks tourism at Berryville Rotary meeting

cilities in the state, Wolfinbarger said, with

hookups for more than 100 RVs on-site for

those who want to watch the action.

“Then you go to Texarkana in the southwest

section of the state. Two major convention

centers have been built in the last five

years,” Wolfinbarger said. “They understand

what’s going on with tourism.”

In El Dorado, he said, the downtown

district is being renovated into an entertainment

mecca.

“The next phase is creating more space

there,” Wolfinbarger said. “They just finished

up a 20,000-square-foot conference

facility.”

Even Bentonville, Wolfinbarger said, has

exploded over the past few years. He used

to go to Bentonville on Thursday afternoons

to have lunch with his wife at a hole-in-thewall

restaurant, Wolfinbarger remembered.

“It’s not that way today,” he said. “Tourism

has been discovered in this great state.

It’s going to be big.”

He described the history of tourism in the

state, saying there was only $600,000 available

to promote tourism in 1985. With the

passage of a 2 percent tax on lodging and

attractions, Wolfinbarger said, the state has

$6 million to bring visitors to the area today.

“We’re starting to reap the benefits of that

funding,” he said. “Ninety-two percent of it

comes from lodging. The rest is attractions.”

Carroll County is showing an increase

in tourism, Wolfinbarger said, with Eureka

Springs up 1 percent last year and the county

up 4 percent. The lodging has moved out of

Eureka Springs, he said, and is now around

Beaver Lake and Kings River. This is important,

he said, because it means the county

has a chance to work together to bring tourists

in. Wolfinbarger said the county could

combine its two largest industries, agriculture

and tourism.

“Agriculture and tourism work well

hand-in-hand,” he said. “It’s the best combination

you could ever get. I want us all to

remember that’s not a wall. That’s a bridge.”

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