The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism is getting its first new executive director in 25 years. Kane Webb was named to the post by Governor Asa Hutchinson on Thursday to succeed Richard Davies.
Webb is a former journalist and native Arkansan. He also comes straight from the governor’s office. Webb credits his background in communication and journalism as preparing him to promote the state’s destinations. The previous parks and tourism head also studied journalism before entering the department.
“It’s all about telling a story, telling the narrative of Arkansas. The advantage I had of being a journalist in Arkansas for the better part of three decades is that I got to do a variety of stories about Arkansas’s people and places, events, history, geography, kind of like a long course on history and culture. I feel like I know this state, I’m from this state, I’m passionate about it,” said Webb.
Developing niche markets is the path to broader growth according to Webb.
“I see it a little bit like our society in general. We’re less generalists and more niche all over the place. We have to better identify what the traveler wants and do more than just the one-off bit. If he’s here for A let’s have him do B, C, and D,” he said.
Webb pointed to mountain biking, cycling, and motorcycling as areas to explore especially with multi-million dollar trail and scenic roadway investments statewide. He also hopes the state’s more recognizable offerings such as Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Buffalo National River, and a myriad of recreational lakes will solidify as known commodities beyond the state’s borders.
In September the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation, and Travel Commission approved a $6.7 million advertising budget for the 2016 spring and summer. It primarily targets Arkansas’s neighboring states.
One major development from a separate wing of state government could have an impact on some of the state’s largest draws is the widening of Interstate 30 running through downtown Little Rock. The plan would sever trolley service from the Rivermarket to the Clinton Library and Heifer International.
Webb said it’s too early for him to weigh-in on that issue. A public hearing on the I 30 widening was held Thursday afternoon.