City of El Dorado receives tourism-focused award

The city of El Dorado is the winner of the 2023 Trendsetter City award winner for Tourism Development/Creative Culture. The annual Trendsetter awards were presented in January by Arkansas Business magazine during the Arkansas Municipal League Winter Conference in Little Rock. El Dorado snagged the award in the category for cities with a population of 5,000 - 20,000. (Contributed)
The city of El Dorado is the winner of the 2023 Trendsetter City award winner for Tourism Development/Creative Culture. The annual Trendsetter awards were presented in January by Arkansas Business magazine during the Arkansas Municipal League Winter Conference in Little Rock. El Dorado snagged the award in the category for cities with a population of 5,000 - 20,000. (Contributed)

The city of El Dorado has received a statewide recognition for its efforts to become a destination hub in the Mid-South region.

Last month, El Dorado was named the 2023 Arkansas Business Trendsetter City for Tourism Development/Creative Culture.

The award was presented during the Arkansas Municipal League Winter Conference, which was held Jan. 10 - 12 in Little Rock.

Mayor Paul Choate shared news of the award and displayed a framed certificate during an El Dorado City Council meeting on Jan. 24.

El Dorado won in the category for cities with a population of 5,000 - 20,000. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the city's population is 17,756.

Arkansas Business cited the El Dorado Conference Center, the Murphy Arts District and the Haywood hotel as three venues that have been built in the city within the past 15 years to advance a goal of making El Dorado a "high-profile event destination."

The magazine noted that The Haywood was the host hotel and headquarters of the 2023 Arkansas Governor's Conference on Tourism.

The conference was held in El Dorado for the first time last year and a local steering committee, who coordinated the event with state tourism officials, said they received messages from attendees who commended the city for its hospitality and presenting a well-run event.

With the recognition as a Trendsetter City in the Tourism Development/Creative Culture category, Choate said the city is positioned as a major player in Arkansas's tourism and hospitality industry -- which is among the leading industries in Arkansas.

"Once again, a lot of folks in the state of Arkansas don't know where El Dorado is and that tourism award is one way of letting people in (the tourism) industry know that we have more than the petro-chem industry and the timber industry," Choate said.

"We have a beautiful southern city that is inviting ... We have a laid-back community and we love our visitors. We just don't get enough of them," he continued.

The mayor pointed to amenities in the area, including outdoor recreation opportunities; the MAD entertainment district; events and festivals that are hosted each year by several community groups, including Main Street El Dorado; a thriving arts community; and more.

"We've got a sportsman's paradise -- hunting and fishing. We've got golf. We have one of the finest golf courses in the country here," said Choate.

"I'm not only talking about (Mystic Creek Golf Club), which is a pro-grade golf club, but we've got (Lions Club Municipal Golf Course), which I would put up against any country club in Arkansas and at a very reasonable price to play golf," he added.

Choate said he also heard plenty of kudos from people around the state following the 2023 AGCT, noting that the conference is typically held in cities and towns with a larger population.

The city was hoping to make a good impression on state tourism officials and other conference attendees, having lost out on a bid for the conference several years earlier.

Local organizers announced in early 2018 that El Dorado had won the bid for the 2020 conference, edging out powerhouse AGCT host Fayetteville.

The excitement was short-lived.

The Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism notified city officials in October of 2019 that the AGCT would be moved to Fayetteville due to a lack of adequate hotel space in El Dorado to accommodate an average-sized AGCT crowd of 400 - 500 attendees from Arkansas and neighboring states.

Unforeseen conflicts with local industry turnarounds, which can bring hundreds of contract workers to town on a short-term basis, put the kibosh on plans to hold the conference in El Dorado at the time.

Down but not out, the city tried again three years later and the second time was the charm.

By the time the second bis was submitted, two new hotels -- Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott and The Haywood -- had sprouted up, adding a total of 145 hotel rooms.

Choate commended the steering committee and the entire community for coming together to prepare the city to host the 49th annual AGCT and the hospitality they showed to out-of-town visitors.

"Our team knocked the ball out of the park. I heard nothing but compliments about that conference and the quality of people they ran into and they bragged on service at the restaurant and retail establishments," he said.

"We've got a beautiful little community and we need to recognize it," said Choate.

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