Things are tough all over. I know this because they say so on the news all the time. Businesses closing, layoffs, too much food, not enough food, it’s all very depressing. Over my many years on the planet, I’ve been in the middle of a bunch of it. But I remain optimistic. Sure, I’m one of those really annoying, “glass is half full and I know where we can get more water kind of guys”. But even I must be crazy to think I could start a small business in the middle of all this. I may still be proven crazy but it won’t be for getting involved in the wrong industry.
Although it may seem that Arkansas Outside is in the media business, or “just a blog”, or some may stretch us into the news business, I like to think we are in a niche part of the tourism industry. We entered that business in a roundabout way which is why it’s so confusing. You see, we cover outdoor participatory sports in The Natural State, Arkansas. In doing so it’s very hard to speak badly about the state in general. In fact, the beauty of the landscape, the people and the growing alternative vibe make it hard not to paint the state in a positive note.
This past weekend I had to skip one of the big mountain bike events in the state, the Eureka Springs Fat Tire Festival. (we will have a story thanks to good friends) I had family obligations in Asheville, NC that needed my attention. Of course when we visit Asheville, we are the tourists. I’ve mountain biked parts of Pisgah, seen Biltmore Estates, hung out downtown visiting way too many beer pubs and restaurants. I’ve taken the bus tour and learned much of the history of the place (which is similar to Hot Springs, AR in a lot of ways). But every time I visit I come away with a feeling that we could be that…only better.
Sure, we don’t have the Smokey Mountains outside our door. We don’t have the Blue Ridge Parkway meandering through town. We don’t have the openness to alternative lifestyles that they have. But we do have the First National River, the Buffalo, along with a multitude of other great streams like the Cossatot and the White. We have the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains that contrast beautifully with the wetlands of the Delta. And as far as scenic roads, a ride on Scenic Highway 7 or the Pig Trail or Push Mountain will not only take you through exquisite forest land but also take you through the history and culture of a long forgotten rural life.
And that openness to alternative lifestyles is growing in Arkansas. In a bike polo tournament in Little Rock, trail running and mountain biking communities throughout the state, the music in Mountain View or a honky tonk in East Arkansas, it grows. Some of these communities date back over 100 years. Much of the music that is popular today is known as Roots Music. Go listen on the square in Mountain View as the folks let loose and you’ll know where those roots cling to the dirt and rock.
Studies done by various groups in the tourism industry in Arkansas have always shown that people have low expectations of Arkansas but once they get here they have one of the most positive attitude changes of visitors to any state in the country. They often become our cheerleaders.
It’s time to get the word out, support local restaurants and stores when you can. Talk up the good in our state. Invite your friends to visit and hike a trail, paddle a river, ride the roads. Visitors are good for all of us. They are the lifeblood of one of the top state industries, tourism.
I’ll leave you with two specific requests:
Michael Chaffin of the Capital Hotel has this request:
We are shooting a video segment next Friday morning which will be used as a promotional tool at this year’s Virtuoso Travel Week Trade show in Las Vegas. This show is the largest upscale/luxury travel trade show in the world and we go every year to promote Little Rock and of course the Capital Hotel. We will have individual appointments with over 400 agents over four days…it’s intense.
We have produced an entertaining short movie video each year which we find necessary to distinguish us from other destinations…and save our voices. This year’s movie will be a cycling theme, promoting Little Rock, Central Arkansas and the Capital Hotel as a one of a kind Cycling Comfortable destination. We feel it is important to show our community-wide collaboration around this theme in order to strike a personal cord with the agents. Toward that end, we have invited cyclists from all corners of the community to join us next Friday morning to film the opening scene of the video.
When: Friday, July 19th, 7:30 AM- until about 10…may get finished sooner
Where: Capital Hotel Little Rock
Breakfast: Complimentary Buffet for all participants (similar to what we served for bike to work day)
What: Video Shoot. Filming the opening scene with gobs of bicycles literally riding into the front of the hotel and into the lobby. Bring your bike and wear whatever you want to show off…kit, tweed, etc.
Also, please help us with this short survey: