First hurdle passed for tourism funding | ParkRecord.com

First hurdle passed for tourism funding

by Andrew Kirk, OF THE RECORD STAFF

Governor Gary Herbert recommended the Utah State Legislature allocate $7 million for promoting and marketing the state to potential visitors. The economic development subcommittee ended up recommending $6.9 million.

That’s good news with all things considered, explained Office of Tourism spokesperson Tracie Cayford. $7 million is the amount allocated last year and was a budget reduction. Office of Tourism director Leigh von der Esch said they were ready to work with that same amount this year, and were hoping it wasn’t reduced further.

Nail-biting anticipation intensified when the Legislature’s leadership asked all government offices to make due with five percent less this year.

What ended up happening, Cayford explained, was the subcommittee recommended a budget of $6 million, and then reassigned $900,000 that was left over from last year’s USTAR budget. USTAR is a state-funded technology/economic development initiative. It ended the year with a surplus, allowing the subcommittee to mitigate the pain of budget cuts in other areas.

Although less than they hoped for, the amount is close, so the first of two hurdles has been cleared, Cayford said. The second hurdle will come when the executive appropriations committee reviews the recommendations and makes final decisions. That committee made it clear it wanted to see five-percent reductions across the board so it is still possible the office’s budget will be reduced further before the end of the legislative session.

Danny Richardson, executive director of the Utah Tourism Industry Coalition, a not-for-profit advocacy group, said he thinks the final committee will see the recommendation as a good compromise.

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"My gut feel is everybody will feel good about the $6.9 million because it got close," he said.

The money is to be spent promoting the "Life Elevated" brand that markets the entire state and all its tourism offerings to people both inside and outside of Utah, Cayford said.

The subcommittee’s decision was made Wednesday after a list of meetings and activities dubbed "Tourism Day on the Hill." The effort was a success, she said, adding that several legislators and the governor found time to join the luncheon and discuss the importance of the tourism industry to the state with tourism professionals.