Cutting Tourism Dollars Foolish

Spending on tourism promotion more than pays for itself in increased tax revenue

Nearly every expense proposed in a state budget can be described by its supporters as "an investment." But when it comes to spending state money to promote tourism, that claim is particularly valid.

According to the respected tourism research firm Longwoods International, every dollar Connecticut spends to promote tourism returns two to three times that amount — not in some hoped-for, long-term payoff, but in direct tax revenue now.

Thus it is disappointing to learn that the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee cut more than $5 million from the $15 million in tourism funding for fiscal 2014 proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Tourism is a significant economic driver for Connecticut. It amounts to $11.5 billion in economic activity annually, bringing in $1.15 billion in state and local tax revenue. In 2011 and 2012, job growth in the leisure and hospitality sector outpaced all other industries in the state.

Research shows private-sector marketing is far less effective than a unified statewide approach.

Look what happened in Colorado. In 1993, that state eliminated its $12 million annual tourism promotion budget. In terms of national summer resort activity, Colorado plummeted from first place to 17th.

Eventually, Colorado reversed course, again spending state money on tourism promotion. For every dollar spent on promotion, $12 came back in direct tax revenue.

With the end of the legislative session at hand, it may be too late to restore funding for Connecticut tourism promotion for fiscal 2014. But for the second half of the biennial budget, it would make sense to see tourism promotion for what it is: a way to increase tax revenue.

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