State may boost bucks for tourism
SUMMIT COUNTY – The old axiom, “You have to spend money to make money” definitely applies to promotion of Colorado’s tourism industry, according to state tourism officials.The problem is, Colorado currently spends a paltry amount to promote its incredible natural beauty, its world-class ski resorts, and its many tourist amenities across the state.That may change this legislative session, if a bill now navigating its way through House channels eventually wins passage. House Bill 1206, currently before the state House Appropriations Committee, would boost tourism industry marketing dollars to $20 million from the $5 million the state now spends every year. State Rep. Gary Lindstrom (D-Breckenridge) is a co-sponsor of the bill, which could have a measurable impact on our local resort economies beholden to the almighty tourist dollar.”We need to create a consistent source of funding for tourism promotion,” Lindstrom said Monday. “You sit at home and watch ads for Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, West Virginia – and you wonder, ‘Where’s Colorado?’ It’s kind of a mystery why we don’t do it. It’s really crazy.” Under the bill, the extra money would be diverted from the state’s limited-stakes gaming industry into Colorado’s general fund.
If passed, the extra dough would be used to expand Colorado’s national and international advertising campaigns attracting visitors to the state, said Pete Meersman, chairman of state’s tourism board.Meersman testified on the bill’s behalf last week at the State Capitol, and presented some astonishing numbers to lawmakers.He reported that Colorado ranks fifth in tourist “desirability”; it’s the fifth most mentioned place that people want to visit in the U.S. However, Colorado ranks a distant 23rd in national tourism market share. How do you go from top five in desire, to middle-of-the-pack in terms of actual dollars spent?You spend very little in tourism dollars, that’s how. Colorado ranks just 35th nationally in terms of total amount spent on tourism promotion. If the bill passes, Colorado would leapfrog to the top 15 nationally in tourism spending.”We are asking for more money so that we can close the gap between being 23rd in market share and fifth in desirability,” Meersman said in an interview.Meersman has even more pecuniary ammunition.
He says that for every dollar spent promoting Colorado tourism, the state gets $336 dollars back in spending by tourists. And of those $336 dollars, $10.34 ends up as state sales taxes, and $10.51 goes to local taxes.”We can show a direct relationship between money spent and money coming back in, and it’s coming back right now at 10-to-1,” Meersman said.Colorado used to have a tax in place specifically earmarked for tourism promotion spending, but that expired in 1993. Since then, the legislature has allocated how much the state spends to lure visitors to vacation here. For many of the years since the tourism tax expired, there’s been little or no funding for the program.One of the groups that’s likely to see a big impact is Colorado Ski Country U.S.A., who are charged with marketing Colorado ski resorts across the country. They’re a direct link between the ski resorts and Meersman’s Colorado Tourism Office.”(The bill) will allow us to have a greater year-round presence, and we’ll be able to do more marketing in our key core markets,” said Rob Perlman, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country U.S.A. He said the group’s core markets nationally are California, New York, Illinois, Florida and Texas.”We’re excited about the prospects. Our community realizes that there’s a good return on our investment in tourism promotion – and that affects all different industries,” Perlman added.
Local business leaders seem anxious for the state to spend more on tourism promotion.”One of the biggest problems we have is that we do rank so low (nationally). We have one of the most beautiful – if not the most beautiful – state in the union, and we don’t spend any money promoting it,” said Kathleen Kennedy, executive director of the Frisco Chamber of Commerce, and owner of the Woods Inn in Frisco.”I know the entire state doesn’t rely solely on tourism, but here in the resort areas we do,” she said.Constance Jones, executive director of the Summit County Chamber, said she, too, would welcome a ramping up of the state’s promotional efforts.”In order to be competitive in the world marketplace, we definitely have to boost our support for tourism spending,” she said. “Companies up here spend a lot of money on their tourism marketing. If we could find some way that we can combine our dollars to really make it work, it would go a long way, I think.”Duffy Hayes can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13611, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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