Hotels, motels and short-term rentals in Arkansas have been directed to refuse occupancy to recreational out-of-state travelers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has issued an executive order prohibiting commercial lodgers and short-term vacation rentals from providing occupancy to out-of-state visitors seeking shelter for recreational purposes. The order is designed to restrict travel from out-of-state travelers in order to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“It is directing our travel industry – motels and hotels – not to issue occupancy out-of-state recreational travelers,” Hutchinson said. “That has been a challenge for us as we have seen people leave New Orleans or they go from another hot spots, and they see the opportunity to come to Arkansas to be here, whether they go to a park or other recreational purposes. That’s what we don’t want to have happen. This is a measure to restrict that, and we believe that it will have some significant effect out there in reducing the travel that we’ve already discouraged.”
Under Executive Order 20-13, motels and hotels can still provide lodging to healthcare professionals, first responders, law enforcement, state and federal employees on official business, National Guard members on active duty, airline crew members, journalists, employees of hotels/motels who need lodging.
In addition, the travel industry can provide lodging to hospital patients and their families, Arkansas citizens in “extant circumstances,” individuals unable to return to their homes due to the coronavirus crisis, people away from home due to work requirements, and individuals in need of shelter due to domestic violence or homelessness.
Early in the Saturday afternoon press conference, Hutchinson acknowledged the negative impact that the coronavirus pandemic was having on the state’s travel industry. He said that he received a text message with a photo of empty streets in Eureka Springs, which he said highlighted both that Arkansans are listening to state recommendations to remain home, but also that tourism in taking a hit. “Obviously, the sad part of that is that it emphasizes the stress on the economy, on our businesses, especially in the tourism industry,” he said.
State officials have been taking measures to restrict out-of-state visitors in Arkansas in recent days. On Tuesday, March 31, Hutchinson made his first announcement that he intended to restrict out-of-state travel, suggesting that popular state parks and attractions could be closed.
Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst announced on Wednesday, April 1 that all state parks would be limited to day-use only and that all overnight activities would be prohibited after Friday, April 3.