Starving tourism is the real economic development issue
I recently read the Associated Press article you ran Jan. 5 regarding Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald’s comments about tourism. I understand that she was simply trying to suggest that we should not put all of our economic development eggs into one basket, and was not trying to bash tourism, but the article did have that flavor.Having sat on the board of the Colorado Tourism Office with her, I can assure you she is very much pro tourism.But allow me, if I might, to add some nuggets regarding tourism that seemed to have escaped her.She suggests that we have been protecting tourism to the detriment of attracting other businesses, and that our economy has suffered as a result. I submit that our economy has suffered as a result of simply “protecting tourism,” as opposed to aggressively supporting tourism.We know, by looking back at our past achievements in tourism marketing (1992) that Colorado has, and can yet again attain at least 2.7 percent of the national tourism market share.We currently enjoy 2 percent of national market share. We have lost market share by not consistently, and aggressively marketing out state’s tourism opportunities on a national basis.Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we were spending roughly $13 million a year on our state marketing effort.By 1993, we were spending nothing. Our market share went from 2.7 percent in 1992 to 1.8 percent in 1997. By 2004, after spending $5 to $10 million a year since 2000, we have recaptured .03 percent of national market share – 2 percent total. The difference between this current share of the market, and our old market share of 2.7 percent means additional annual tourism revenue in our state of $2.5 billion annually.We could recapture our old high water mark of market share, and that additional $2.5 billion, by spending the same amount of money it took to get there the first time.In inflation-adjusted dollars, that is about $18 to $20 million a year for marketing.Some people suggest that it is not the state’s business to market tourism. I think they are wrong.Our studies, which are well grounded, and accurate, indicate that for every dollar the state spends marketing tourism, we receive $12.74 in state and local taxes in return.The state’s share is about 60 percent of this amount.In short, if we made a commitment in Colorado to spend $20 million annually to market our state’s tourism industry, the state would receive about $130 million in taxes in return. This would reduce the state tax obligation of every citizen in the state.It’s good for business, and good for government. That’s the kind of economic development I’m talking about.Rep. Al White, a Republican, represents House District 57. He is from Winter Park in Grand County. He can be reached at email@example.com (303) 886 2537.
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