Museum Helps Hotels, Restaurants

After her first visit to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art celebrating her 15th birthday Friday, Samantha Barragan of Rogers takes a self-portrait with the museum in the background in Bentonville. Laura Jacobs, museum communications director, said the museum has received an “extraordinary” reception from the Bentonville community. Support has come in the form of yard signs declaring “We’re glad you’re here,” online and social media feedback and a robust membership drive.
After her first visit to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art celebrating her 15th birthday Friday, Samantha Barragan of Rogers takes a self-portrait with the museum in the background in Bentonville. Laura Jacobs, museum communications director, said the museum has received an “extraordinary” reception from the Bentonville community. Support has come in the form of yard signs declaring “We’re glad you’re here,” online and social media feedback and a robust membership drive.

— City hotels and restaurants are seeing the financial benefits from the November opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. More than 120,000 people visited the museum in its first 100 days, exceeding projections for 350,000 visits per year.

Hotel taxes collected by the Bentonville Advertising and Promotion Commission were up 23 percent in November over the previous year. Restaurant taxes were up 12 percent, said Kalene Griffith, president of the Bentonville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Griffith said the bureau is continuing to see a spike in numbers for December and January.

David Hutchens, a member of the Advertising and Promotion Commission, said October and November were both good months for Bentonville. October saw the highest hotel tax numbers and restaurant numbers for 2011.

November’s restaurant collection was the largest November total in the commission’s seven-year reporting period. The hotel collection was the largest since pre-recession totals in 2007.

“If you open a $1.3 billion museum, in one month there will be a financial impact,” Hutchens said.

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Coworkers in Walmart’s Human Resources Department of Walmart’s corporate offices dine in Friday at Tusk & Trotter during lunch. “Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is transforming Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas into a world-renowned tourism destination,” said Kalene Griffith, president of the Bentonville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Taxes collected from Doubletree Guest Suites and Hilton Garden Inn were both up 33 percent from November 2010 to November 2011. The only hotels seeing a decrease in tax collection were the Economy Lodge, Travelodge and Hartland Lodge.

Numbers could spike again when several scheduled bus tours begin arriving in April and May, according to John Lamparski, group tours sales manager for the Visitors Bureau. He said Bentonville will serve as home base for many multiday tour groups that plan to visit attractions in Northwest Arkansas, Fort Smith, Eureka Springs and Branson, Mo. The hotel stays and many dining dollars will stay in Bentonville, he said.

“In April and May, there will be buses all over the place,” Lamparski said.

Griffith said the Visitors Bureau is working with city officials and local churches to find spots to park the buses without impeding local traffic.

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Assistant Manager Jared Lowrey calls out orders to chefs Friday at Tusk & Trotter in Bentonville during the lunchtime rush. With the tourism that Crystal Bridges has brought into the area, restaurants and hotels have experienced in influx of customers and demand.

“Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is transforming Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas into a world-renowned tourism destination,” Griffith said.

That sentiment is reflected in surveys by museum staff showing visitors from dozens of states and several countries. Laura Jacobs, director of communications for the museum, said guests have hailed from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Germany and China.

The Bentonville Convention and Visitors Bureau recently was invited to attend two selective international meetings likely to further the city’s worldwide prominence, Griffith said at an Advertising and Promotion meeting Thursday.

Bentonville’s listing as the only American city in Travel and Leisure magazine’s top 12 destinations for 2012 could also increase hotel room stays and restaurant profit, as could a recently announced partnership between the Louvre in Paris and Crystal Bridges.

Jacobs said the museum has received an “extraordinary” reception from the Bentonville community. Support has come in the form of yard signs declaring “We’re glad you’re here,” online and social media feedback and a robust membership drive.

New activities at the museum are drawing guests as well. Public programs initiated this month, including gallery tours and discussions on trails, have been well attended, Jacobs said. The Walker School Tour program, which pays for school field trips at the museum, also recently launched pilot activities.

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