Kane Webb was appointed as the Executive Director of the Department in 2015 by Governor Asa Hutchinson. As executive director Webb oversees all development and operations of the State Parks, grants and technical assistance to communities for parks, the promotion of the state through the Tourism Division and the fight against litter with the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission. A native Arkansan, Webb began his career as a journalist after graduating from the University of Missouri in 1986. He has worked for the old Arkansas Democrat, the old Arkansas Gazette and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where he held several posts and won many state, regional and national awards.
1. What role does the concept of place play in the tourism industry?
An enormous role. And it’s only increasing as we come to better understand what travelers are looking for – and that’s a unique, local experience. The key word there is “experience,” which is largely determined by quality of and sense of place.
2. Describe the role of the Arkansas Department of Tourism and how does that role value up the concept of placemaking?
Our tourism division is charged with promoting and marketing Arkansas and enhancing our state’s image around the country and the world. Essential in making that happen is properly marketing Arkansas as an only-find-it-here place.
3. What is Arkansas’ biggest challenge for competing nationally for positive attention from tourists?
Our biggest challenge is one of our oldest challenges, and that’s getting the word out so that folks who have never been to Arkansas come experience Arkansas. Once they do that, inevitably they want to come back and often fall in love with our state. I can’t count how many times I’ve used the phrase, “if we can get them here, they’ll love it.” And they do. As challenges go, this is a good problem to have, because it’s not a product problem, it’s an awareness problem. And we are working on that.
4. What is the greatest opportunity for Arkansas communities looking to establish a unique story?
Our timing could not be better. Circling back to what travelers are looking for – which is the unique story and experience. Every Arkansas community has its own unique story and its own unique vision. Don’t be afraid to play on that, market that. An ideal example of a small town that is cashing in on a unique part of its history and culture is Walnut Ridge, which has capitalized on The Beatles landing there decades ago.
5. What role can municipalities play in strengthening Arkansas’s brand?
By developing their own story and telling that story municipalities naturally strengthen the Arkansas brand as a place that is just plain different – and I mean that in the best possible way.