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Contact: Teri Gage, 870-365-2702
Depending on which economist you ask, the U.S. economy grew between one and four percent in 2014. But on a local level, several small businesses that serve visitors to the Buffalo National River reported a much higher rate of growth over the past year.
According to park officials, the twelve concessioners who provide canoe rentals and shuttle services along the river saw a 25 percent increase in canoe rentals over 2013. According to Commercial Services Manager Teri Gage, "Twenty-five percent was the parkwide average increase in canoe rentals. Some concessioners –especially those operating in the most upper part of the river, saw a much a greater increase. Others saw a more a modest increase. But overall, it was a very good year. Canoe rentals were higher in 2014 than they'd been in more than ten years." At Buffalo Point, where local businessman Larry Davenport operates the only in-park lodging and food service concession, sales were up 35 percent over the previous year. "It was a great year for us," stated Davenport. "I hope the weather continues to cooperate and we see another good year in 2015.
"While concessioners attribute the success to mild summer temperatures and frequent rains throughout the floating season, it's likely that the broader economic climate played a part as well. The gross domestic product was up, unemployment was down, and gasoline prices held steady throughout the floating season. In addition, the Arkansas Tourism Department launched an aggressive tourism marketing strategy in early 2014, designed to attract visitors from near and far.
The National Park Service awards ten-year concession contracts on a competitive basis to businesses that provide services deemed to be necessary and appropriate to meet the needs and expectations of park visitors. More information about concessioners at Buffalo National River may be found on the park website at https://www.nps.gov/buff/concessions.htm.