In a sign that tourism is struggling amid a national recession, the Arkansas Tourism Development Commission on Tuesday approved an emergency rule for all state-run attractions, including a popular attraction at a popular Arkansas theme park, the Arkansans with Special Olympics.
Arkansas’ tourism industry is struggling as the state’s unemployment rate rises and businesses shut down for economic reasons, but the state is also struggling to find workers.
Tourism revenue is down 2.9 percent from the year before and is projected to drop another 2.5 percent this year, according to a report by the state comptroller’s office.
The commission has said it could take years to recover from the effects of the recession.
Tourists in the state have lost about 4,500 jobs in the past year, and the economic downturn has reduced visitor numbers by more than 50 percent from a year earlier, according the comptroller.
In 2017, the state lost nearly 2,200 jobs, the comptptroller said.
The Arkansas Tourism Commission has long faced budget challenges, but a major restructuring of the tourism industry in recent years has pushed the economy back up.
The tourism industry, which has a history of attracting foreign tourists, is among the biggest employers in the U.S. and has grown over the past decade.
In a statement, the commission said that it has been working with the Arkansas General Assembly and the U:State Commerce Department to implement measures to make sure the state has a solid tourist economy.
The commission also proposed that the commission establish a statewide hiring and staffing program for tourism, and a new state-wide tourism agency to be led by the governor.
The tourism industry depends on the state and its employees, including state troopers, to help manage visitors and other businesses.
Tourism is the most popular form of state employment, according a survey conducted by the Arkansas Business & Industry Group in 2016.
The agency, which includes the state Department of Revenue and the Comptroller, will be responsible for reviewing the status of the state-owned attractions and for identifying any potential job losses.