LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A study showed the Arkansas tourism industry took a billion-dollar jump since last year, with a new director of state tourism named Monday.

The Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism commissioned a study by Tourism Economics on tourism impact. The study found that tourism dollars had grown $1.2 billion in 2022 for a total of $9.2 billion brought into the state.

Visitors in 2022 spent the most in transportation, food, and lodging.  According to the study, lodging accounted for the largest increase in overall visitor spending, climbing 23% from 2021 figures.

Department Secretary Shea Lewis said the lodging numbers were important for marketing.

“The lodging numbers are very important because the greatest bulk of 2% tourism reinvestment tax dollars are generated by our lodging partners,” said Lewis. “Those dollars are almost entirely paid by out-of-state visitors.”

The study’s authors stated the 2% increase in 2022 collections represented a $24.3 million increase. That money is used to fund tourism marketing, Lewis said.

The study showed that tourism provides 68,098 jobs in the state in 2022, up 6% from the previous year for a total of $2.1 billion in earnings. This comes out to 3.9% of all Arkansas jobs.

The study’s authors point out that spending by tourism employees has a further impact on state revenues, as does what it calls indirect employment, those who supply goods and services in support of tourism. When indirect employment is factored Arkansas has a $15.7 billion tourism industry employing 97,839 with $1 billion in taxes for 2022.

Dalaney Thomas, incoming director of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism said tourism is the Natural State’s second-largest industry. She was announced Monday by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders as the agency’s new director.

Thomas had been with the Little Rock-based CJRW agency where she was the account manager for Arkansas Tourism and Oaklawn for almost nine years.

“I’m proud to announce that Dalaney Thomas will serve as Arkansas’ newest Director of Tourism. Dalaney has spent nearly a decade working with Arkansas Tourism from the outside, brainstorming new ideas to get the word out about our state. She’s spearheaded nationwide marketing campaigns and has the creative chops we’ll need to compete with other states,” the governor said.

Thomas said she was looking forward to growing the state tourism industry by product development and reaching into new markets.