Colorado tourism funding down, but not out | VailDaily.com
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Colorado tourism funding down, but not out

JULIE SUTOR
summit daily news

DENVER – A proposal to maintain Colorado tourism funding is now before the state Senate. House Bill 1339 would keep the state’s annual contribution to the Colorado Tourism Office at $15 million for the second year in a row.

The Colorado House of Representatives passed the measure last week, but only after stripping an amendment that would have eliminated 100 percent of the state’s tourism funds.

“There was an effort to take all the money away, and that got people quite worked up,” said state Rep. Christine Scanlan, who represents Summit and Eagle counties. “It would have been like cutting off your nose to spite your face – you may get a short-term pot of money, but you lose so much more in the long run.”

According to a Colorado Tourism Office study, every dollar spent on tourism promotion at the state level generates $6.25 for state coffers and $6.75 in revenues for local governments.

“We need to do everything we can to maintain those revenues,” said Sen. Al White, who represents northwestern Colorado.

This year’s proposed allocation of $15 million – less than in the recent past – is part of an effort to balance the state budget in the face of anemic tax revenues. Last year’s allocation of $15 million represented a reduction from the $20 million lawmakers originally budgeted for 2009.

The Colorado Tourism Office promotes the Centennial State as a tourism destination in national and international markets. Breckenridge Resort Chamber president and CEO John McMahon said that marketing effort is vital to the survival of the state’s tourism industry. He said the state’s promotional work draws potential travelers’ attention to the Rocky Mountain region and to the state, giving organizations like his the opportunity to then lure visitors to local attractions.

“Given the size of our industry, it’s critical we maintain funding at the state level for the Colorado brand,” McMahon said. “It’s important that Colorado is at the forefront of helping people make that regional decision.”

Scanlan said she and her colleagues from districts whose economies depend on tourism “argued hard in the House” against the amendment that would have done away with state spending on tourism altogether.

“People were getting a lot of calls down at the capital, which was to our benefit, for sure,” Scanlan said.

House Bill 1339 passed in the Senate on second reading Wednesday morning and is scheduled for a final vote today.

“Tourism is our second-leading economic driver in Colorado and is critical for our mountain communities, so I was pleased that tourism funding was not eliminated,” said Sen. Dan Gibbs, who represents Summit County.

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or jsutor@summitdaily.com.


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