Legislature poised to boost tourism funding | VailDaily.com

Legislature poised to boost tourism funding

Scott N. Miller
Bret Hartman/Daily file photoTourism promotion in Colorado could get a major boost from a bill moving through the state Legislature.

EAGLE COUNTY ” It only took 14 years, but Colorado almost has a steady, substantial source of money to promote tourism. Those in the local tourism business couldn’t be happier.

A bill to funnel $19 million per year into “tourism promotion” has passed both the state House and Senate. Once a final version of the bill makes it to Gov. Bill Owens’ desk, he’s expected to sign it immediately.

The money would come from taxes paid by the state’s casinos. That money was originally set to go into the state’s road maintenance fund. But one of the bill’s sponsors said the loss to road work will be temporary.

“There will be money available for transportation,” said State Sen. Jack Taylor, the Steamboat Springs Republican who represents Eagle County.

The money, Taylor said, will come from the taxes that are collected from increased spending by tourists.

“There’s a big return on investment from promotion,” Taylor said. “Studies show that return could be anywhere from $2 to $20 on every dollar spent.”

If the return is $10 in increased sales tax for every dollar spent on magazine and TV ads, that could mean the state would reap $200 million in new tax collections, Taylor said. Half of that would go to local governments, with half going to the state.

“We’re really excited about this,” said Tim Cochrane, director of the Eagle-based Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Eagle is one of the places that could see some real benefits from more tourists along Interstate 70 or coming through the county airport, Cochrane said.

Since the last dedicated source of promotion money ” a small state sales tax ” expired in 1992, the state has relied on a number of hit-and-miss ways to fund tourism promotion. Big resorts and attractions paid for their own national advertising, but places from Eagle to Heeney to Mancos were left out.

“Every mom-and-pop operation in the state suffered because of that,” Cochrane said.

But businesses in Vail and Beaver Creek will see benefits, too, said Brian Nolan, a member of the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau’s board of directors.

“It’s exciting to see Colorado back in the game,” Nolan said. “Any effort to promote the state is welcome.”

The competition for tourism dollars is fierce, Nolan said, and Colorado needs to promote itself to build its share of that business.

It’s taken a long time to get a secure source of money to promote the state, and Taylor has worked on the problem since he was first elected to the House in 1992.

The day the bill passed the Senate “was the best day I’ve had in 14 years here,” Taylor said. “When you work on something that long, it’s exciting to see it finally happen.”

Gary Lindstrom, who represents Eagle County in the House, was a co-sponsor of the bill. He said the promotion program could start as early as this year.

“The new fiscal year starts July 1, so probably by the fall we could see a program in place.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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