Visit Rogers Embracing New Year of Opportunity

Happy New Year! It is time to celebrate, and boy do we need and welcome a new year right about now! Most of us are happy to do away with 2020 and rush into 2021, wiping away memories of the past year and looking towards the promise of the new. But is it fair to do so? Despite the wrecking ball of COVID-19, has nothing positive come out of the old year? Visit Rogers, a division of the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, believes there has. Despite, and because of, the pandemic, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) like Visit Rogers have found opportunity amid challenge. 

Pivoting to Support the Local Community 

Watching the intent to meet and travel plummet last spring, we immediately paused most traditional marketing activities, investing only enough to keep our digital assets like the website and social media up to date. We focused on communicating pandemic related information to the Rogers community, supporting our local businesses where possible, and highlighting family-friendly outdoor activities. In other words, realizing, for the near term, that everything is local, and our customer was the local community. 

The entire Chamber staff stayed in close contact with each Chamber member and tourism stakeholder throughout the spring and summer last year, providing valuable communications, advocacy, and support for our community. Visit Rogers reached out to local hoteliers, attractions, and restaurants, relaying vital communication from industry groups including Centers for Disease Controls, Arkansas Department of Health, U. S. Travel Association, Arkansas Hospitality Association, and the Arkansas CARES Act Committee.

Advocating for the Hospitality Industry & Small Business

Besides communicating to the industry, advocating for our industry became job one for us. As part of our alliances with U.S Travel Association, Destinations International, and Southeast Tourism Society, our staff communicated with the Arkansas congressional delegation in Washington D.C. for critical financial aid for the nation’s small businesses and hospitality industry. We worked with the Arkansas Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus and Arkansas Hospitality Association to lobby state leaders for industry assistance and played a critical role in the creation of the $50 million Business Interruption Grant program targeting our Arkansas tourism partners.

Working to Keep the Customer

Internally, our recent efforts have focused on communicating to our outside customers, working with them to negotiate contracts and bookings, postponements and cancellations, layoffs, and closures. We have worked to keep the customer, even if we lost the sale, which happened often in 2020.

Our talented staff remained intact and is working hard to bring future business to our Rogers hospitality partners. The sales team has reached out to thousands of accounts promoting future events in Rogers. Our marketing team has created new content targeting travelers from within the state of Arkansas and the regional drive market, encouraging local vacations and stayovers.

Promoting Rogers as a Destination

For the first time, television commercials have been running in-state promoting Rogers. Social media has been featuring profiles of small business owners and hospitality partners, sharing their pandemic stories with our community. Last fall, National Hispanic Heritage Week was promoted, spotlighting diversity in our city and encouraging visitors and residents to support minority businesses in Rogers. Visit Rogers also partnered with Fayetteville, Springdale, and Bentonville as co-sponsors of the online “Thriving Roots” music festival, showcasing local musicians and venues.

Ultimately, we made the best out of the bad hand we were dealt last year. We focused on the big thing, which we identified as our community. It’s important to note that Visit Rogers exists to provide opportunity to the entire Rogers community through tourism, not just to sell hotel rooms, or book events, or sell tickets. Those are by-products and the result of our efforts, yes. But that success only furthers the goal of bringing success to our community.

Bringing Success to Our Community

To continue the momentum of our community’s successes, we have protected our ranks and preserved staff, for that preserves our competitive advantage. If we’ve played our cards right, when the industry comes back, Visit Rogers will be known as and depended upon as a trusted, experienced destination team that serves our clients, engages our community, and never stops working for our partners.

New business developments brought plenty of good news for our community last year. Restaurant stars Walk-Ons and Saltgrass Steak House debuted in Rogers in 2020, both neighbors to entertainment giant Topgolf. The largest outdoor entertainment venue in Arkansas, the Walmart AMP, completed their 20|20 expansion, enhancing the patron’s concert experience, improving the artist’s experience, and entering a new decade with a new vision. Those projects are part of almost $400 million of development happening around Rogers.

And there is more. Transportation improvements are helping to connect east and west sides of I-49, improving access and availability to amenities for visitors and residents. Cycling trails now connect Downtown Rogers to the Razorback Greenway, bringing Fayetteville, Bentonville, and Bella Vista bikers to our brick lined streets to shop, dine, and explore.

All eyes are on Downtown Rogers this spring for the opening of the new Railyard Park. The multi-use park is the new home of the DTR Market, a splash park, playground, and the Butterfield Stage, future home to live entertainment, festivals, and performances.

Local attractions have added features and experiences that engage visitors in the unique fabric of Rogers. The Daisy Airgun Museum commissioned the fabrication of the World’s Largest Daisy BB Gun (25’ tall), to be installed soon. The photo opportunity tourist attraction is an investment in our Historic Downtown by the non-profit Daisy Airgun Museum. And recent renovations to the Railyard Bike Park have been drawing thrill-seeking bikers year-round, perfectly complimenting the new downtown vibe.

The Arkansas Public Theatre is currently featuring film series and special offerings and plans a return to main stage productions later this year. The Rogers Historical Museum is offering virtual tours, special exhibits, and one-of-a-kind treasures of Rogers history, all in their new Haley Building home and 2nd Street campus.

Experts anticipate improvement in travel and tourism by mid-year. We know that what made Rogers and Northwest Arkansas a world class destination pre-COVID-19 will remain post-pandemic. Perhaps we should celebrate the New Year as they do in Colombia. In hopes of a travel-filled new year, residents of Colombia carry empty suitcases around the block. That is one New Year’s tradition we can all embrace!

Stepping Up to Lead

The Visit Rogers team strives to provide destination leadership excellence to our industry, customers and community and have stepped up to lead in the following roles:

Kelly Parker | Marketing Communications Manager Kelly Parker is serving on the Southeast Tourism Society Domestic Showcase Transition Committee, charged with creating a new model for group tour tradeshows and the former Travel South Domestic Showcase.

Luke Wiggins | Destinations International, the worldwide association for Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) such as Visit Rogers, named Meetings & Conventions Sales Manager Luke Wiggins to its Convention Sales & Service Committee.

J.R. Shaw | Executive Director J. R. Shaw was recently named to the Destinations International Professional Development Committee.