As a destination marketing organization, we at the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau strive to promote our city in such a way that it attracts a high level of tourism and business from conventions and other events. Our ability to do that relies heavily on the efforts of individuals and organizations that help demonstrate our unique brand of southern hospitality and create — or preserve — annual events, popular attractions, and diverse venues that make people want to visit Fort Smith, Arkansas. For that reason, we are happy to extend our heartfelt gratitude to someone that has spent their entire professional career doing just that. Congratulations to our newest Hometown Hospitality Hero, Brenda Payne!
Nearly 20 years ago, Brenda began a career in hospitality at Holiday Inn City Center — currently the Executive Hotel at City Center — in downtown Fort Smith. Over the next 18 years, she became a respected member of the community and local tourism and hospitality industry. In addition to that, she would demonstrate leadership abilities that lead to her being promoted to Director of Sales at Holiday Inn City Center. Payne played an important role in retaining the convention business that the Fort Smith CVB worked so diligently to secure through her attention-to-detail, positive attitude, work ethic, and accommodating nature that continues to make working with her a true pleasure. Then, after almost two decades at the Holiday Inn City Center, Brenda became the Director of Sales at Fort Smith’s newest attraction, Parrot Island Waterpark! It wouldn’t take long for her to prove that she was exactly what they needed — and more — for their grand opening to make a splash in Fort Smith.
Despite their grand opening being accompanied by historic flooding in the Arkansas River Valley, Parrot Island Waterpark was able to attract around 120,000 visitors during its first season. Considering that this amount of traffic exceeded their original business projections, we would say that was a pretty successful year! As a matter of fact, due to the high volume of street traffic, a stop light was installed at the entrance and a shade
structure was constructed over the concessions area to accommodate their many guests. In addition, the events that the waterpark hosted in their first season would lead to a high volume of private event business being booked. “There were so many parties, we immediately realized the need for a pavilion that would function primarily as a venue for these large groups.” With another need recognized, no time was wasted and the pavilion was constructed almost immediately. Of course, Brenda has always been known as a business leader who puts the needs of her customers and clients at the top of her list of priorities.
“Brenda is the face of Parrot Island Waterpark,” American Resort Management (ARM) Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Laura Salisbury, said. “We chose her because it was obvious that she loves her community, gets involved and truly cares about her customers. Her sales experience and background in hospitality were such an advantage and made the success of this first year a possibility.”With nearly 30 private events already booked for the 2016 season — which begins this Memorial Day weekend — Payne hasn’t wasted any time on ensuring that this year is a huge success, as well. In fact, Parrot Island Waterpark anticipates that they will exceed last year’s foot traffic pretty quickly. A third of these groups travel here from outside of Fort Smith and bring 500 visitors to the park, on average. Even better, they stay an average of 2 nights in our area’s hotels and spend money at local restaurants and other types of businesses. So, we don’t think it will be that difficult for Brenda to lead her team through another great season at Parrot Island Waterpark.
The Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau will continue to look forward to working with Brenda Payne, as it has always been a true pleasure. Because of Hometown Hospitality Heroes like her, Fort Smith’s tourism and hospitality industry continues to grow as more and more visitors Experience Fort Smith!