HOPE, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS) – The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on tourism in the Hempstead County city of Hope, but the mayor says there are some hopeful signs of recovery.
“Actually we feel good on where we’re at now,” said Mayor Steve Montgomery. “Come March, I was doing the doom and gloom. Saying that, ‘Now we’re going to really have to cut it back, 2021 is going to be rough, as well,’ but, I was really surprised come June.”
Montgomery said events like the Watermelon Festival and tourist sites like the birthplace President Bill Clinton bring in thousands of tourists a year.
Hope took a hit with tourism tax revenue down about four to five percent.
“So that travel tourism, that really hurt us there,” said Montgomery.
Despite the circumstances, the downtown area is seeing a lot of growth. About five new businesses have opened since the economy re-opened.
“Businesses come in and replace businesses that have closed down before or even buildings that we’re empty before. So people are wanting to still invest in Hope. Wanting to invest in our downtown.”
The best preparation is to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready, Montgomery said.
“Let’s try to be proactive and try to keep everyone safe. Like I said we did a mask mandate prior to the state doing it as well. Just trying to keep everybody safe as best as we can.”
City officials encourage visitors to travel to the area, but wear a mask while doing so.