Hospitality industry lobbies state for funds

Denver and Colorado tourism may be up, but the hospitality industry says it needs state funding for tourism promotion and is focusing its efforts on convincing state legislators that tourism promotion dollars should be a line item in the state's budget.
Lobbyist Bill Artist, who is working with the Colorado Tourism Board and the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, has focused efforts on convincing four members of the Joint Budget Committee to support state-funded tourism promotion.

The theory is that it will be easier to convince four members of the budget committee rather than a majority of the Legislature. Returning member Sen. Elsie Lacey is a supporter, but the task is difficult until the November elections determine who the rest of the members of the committee will be.

Although tourism in Denver and Colorado is up, those in the hospitality industry believe more money is necessary to tap into all the opportunities for tourism growth.

Denver and Colorado saw tourism increase about 10 percent over last year, according to a presentation by the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau based on the 200-page report by Toronto-based research firm Longwoods International.

Tourism is the state's second-largest industry, with more than $6.25 billion generated every year. Only manufacturing, with $16 billion, is larger.

However, based on market share, Colorado tourism is down, said J. William Seccombe, the bureau's vice president of marketing.

"Had we continued to promote Colorado, we would have had 33 percent more money spent in the state," he said. "It was our best year ever, but advertising works and had we continued marketing Colorado and Denver, [the year] would have been significantly better."

The Colorado Tourism Board lost its state funding in 1993 when voters defeated an extension of the 0.02 percent tax on tourism-related businesses. The Colorado Tourism Board's annual advertising budget was more than $6 million.

"We still need to do more promotion," said Colette Ratcliff, a hospitality consultant and owner of Ratcliff Resources. "While [tourism] is holding well in Denver, it certainly is not holding that well in the rest of the state. I think the small towns are suffering."

In 1997, efforts to introduce legislation to allocate funding were largely unsuccessful because groups did not work together to put together one proposal. Instead, five different bills were introduced and it was confusing, Ratcliff said.

"It was hard even for those in the industry to understand," she said.

At the last minute, the state did contribute $1 million for tourism promotions for fiscal 1998-1999, but the money is just a drop in the bucket compared to the $13 million the tourism tax raised before being defeated.

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