After debating the issue and hearing from the tourism industry, the Colorado House of Representatives decided to keep money for the state’s tourism promotion effort secure for the next fiscal year.
The Appropriations Committee suggested cutting the entire budget for the state’s tourism board as a way to fill the multi-million gap in the state budget.
Tourism officials expected a cut from the $15 million appropriated during 2009 to $10.2 million – but the suggestion to cut funding completely came as a surprise.
And for the industry, it was a wake-up call.
“We were told in January that Gov. Ritter didn’t want to see a cut any lower than $10.2 million,” said Terry Sullivan, CEO of the Colorado Springs convention and visitors bureau and president of the Tourism Industry Association of Colorado. “We knew there would be a sacrifice – but cutting it to zero represents a huge reduction.”
During 1993, the state tourism board was shuttered after a statewide referendum cut the state’s hotel and restaurant tax that funded it. From 1993 to 1997, the state was not advertised as a vacation spot to the rest of the nation.
“Without promotion in 1997 the state lost $2.4 billion in tourism revenue and $134 million in taxes,” Sullivan said. “But in 2008, with $15 million, the state had 51 million visitors who spent $11 billion in tourism related expenditures – the second highest since tracking started in 1994.”
Colorado Springs receives between 30,000 and 40,000 referrals from the state every year, Sullivan said.
House Bill 1339 deals with distributing revenue from state gaming money during the next fiscal year, and will provide money for tourism.
After hearing from constituents, several legislators spoke in favor of maintaining the money at the $10.2 million recommended in the bill.