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July 18, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

Tourism is the lifeblood of Hot Springs.

Never has that been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the occupancy of local restaurants, hotels, motels and attractions were drastically reduced beginning in March 2020, tax revenues plummeted, and businesses began cutting hours and personnel. The city's vibrant convention business came to a stone-cold stop.

Yet, tourists still found their way to the Spa City, fleeing the crowds in bigger cities for the serene outdoors, at first, then returning in force once local attractions began to open back up.

And now? Things aren't totally back to "normal," if anyone can explain exactly what that is, anymore, but at least the tourists continue to flow into town.

This month, HER visited with some of the leaders and managers who make those attractions a success, regardless of a pandemic.

On HER's cover this month is a true leader in the tourism industry, Diane LaFollette, the director of Mid-America Science Museum. LaFollette, who moved from Little Rock to Hot Springs in 2013 after spending 16 years at the Museum of Discovery, faced an unforeseen challenge in opening the museum's state-of-the-art, free-standing exhibition hall that can house national traveling exhibits in the midst of a pandemic. The addition of the exhibit hall will allow the museum to host larger touring exhibits, including artifacts and relevant science-related items from affiliate institutions like the Smithsonian and the NASA Museum Alliance.

We also feature a trailblazer in the tourism industry, Joan Botts, who directs all marketing initiatives for racing, casino and resort including brand marketing, advertising, agency relations, promotions, events, VIP, entertainment and much more at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. Botts, a Korean American, is currently the only woman on Oaklawn's senior management team.

Also featured this month is Renea Guin, a natural resources specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Guin decided to join the agency because of her love for the outdoors, and it shows in her work ethic as well as her knowledge of the Lake Ouachita Project.

In our regular HER features this month, Dr. Jamie Koonce continues her discussion on the impact of night shift work on individual health. She notes it is critically important for shift workers to know what they can do to stay healthy while working the night shift, and offers advice for what every shift worker needs to know if they're interested in maintaining good health throughout their career.

Rounding out this month's issue is a discussion that is critically important for pet owners this time of year: How to deal with the "dog days" of summer. Dr. Jessica Rhodes advises us on the warning signs to look for, how to render immediate aid, and when to consider seeking medical attention when your dog experiences "heat stroke."

The HER staff hopes you enjoy the rest of the summer and all the Spa City has to offer. Stay safe!

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