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The added urgency of Sarasota County tourism marketing

Does tourism research and marketing matter? Or do visitors drift into Southwest Florida on their own?

Colorado represents a case study in the value of tourism promotional dollars. Scrutinizing some two decades of tourist information and reports, Longwoods International, a Toronto-based marketing, advertising and public opinion research company, issued a paper titled “What Happens When You Stop Marketing? The Rise and Fall of Colorado Tourism.” The report describes the state’s experience as “a quintessential demonstration of the necessity and financial value of marketing.”

“In 1993,” according to that report, “Colorado became the only state to eliminate its tourism marketing function when it cut its $12 million promotion budget to zero. As a result, Colorado’s domestic market share plunged 30 percent within two years, representing a loss of over $1.4 billion in tourism revenue annually. Over time, the revenue loss increased to well over $2 billion yearly. In the important summer resort segment, Colorado dropped from first place among states to 17th” in 1994.

“It took until 2000 for the industry to convince the legislature to reinstate funding with a modest $5 million budget. Research tracked the effectiveness of the state’s tourism campaigns over the next few years and demonstrated an ROI of over 12:1. In 2006, Gov. Bill Owens signed a bill upping the tourism promotion budget to $19 million. By 2007, travel to Colorado rebounded to an all-time high, with 28 million visitors spending $9.8 billion enjoying their trips to the state.

“The Colorado saga … clearly illustrates that marketing is an essential net generator of revenue and profits to the organization, not a cost.”

Florida’s Legislature slipped into the anti-tourism market mode a few years ago, to Scott’s dismay. This year, the governor sought $100 million for Visit Florida, the tourism promotion agency. The House countered with $76 million and the Senate with $50 million. The House amount survived in the state budget despite the skepticism of some lawmakers about the spending.

Full story here.