Pennsylvania budget proposes staggering 73 percent cut to tourism funding


As the busy summer travel season begins, Pennsylvania’s leading tourism official today said the Senate Republican budget proposal to cut tourism funding by a staggering 73 percent would cripple one of the state’s largest industries and severely impact Pennsylvania’s economy by costing thousands of jobs and closing small businesses.

In 2008, the tourism industry provided US$18 billion in wages to more than 600,000 Pennsylvanians.

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“If enacted, Senate Bill 850 would cut funding for attracting tourists to less than US$4.5 million and would handcuff the industry while destroying Pennsylvania’s legacy as one of the nation’s leading travel destinations,” said Department of Community and Economic Development Deputy Secretary of Tourism Mickey Rowley. “The bottom line is that states are strongly competing for travelers whose spending translates into jobs, wages, and billions of dollars in state and local tax revenues each year. Now is the wrong time to abandon the tourism marketplace.”

If this budget is enacted as proposed, Pennsylvania’s Great Lakes region would likely see the following initiatives cut or eliminated altogether:

– 1-800-VISIT-PA, which is operated by Telatron, one of Erie’s largest private employers

– Advertising in Canadian markets and marketing of the region’s wine trails

– Public outreach efforts that have resulted in stories on attractions like Route 6 in national travel publications including USA Today and have attracted thousands of visitors to the region

“The Senate proposal will force us to cut critical regional marketing partnership funding,” Rowley said. “A 40- to 50-percent cut would mean a decrease from US$300,000 to closer to US$150,000 and would be devastating to Pennsylvania’s Great Lakes region and to all of the small businesses that benefit from a regional approach to marketing.”

Rowley added that competing states, like Ohio, Michigan, and California, all of which are also facing serious budget shortfalls, have increased their budgets for tourism promotion despite the recession and are aggressively advertising in Pennsylvania and surrounding markets.

“We cannot afford to lose visitors to our competitors, particularly at time when many of our tourism-related businesses are already struggling,” Rowley said. “Promoting Pennsylvania means promoting the thousands of businesses, large and small, across the state. We must have the resources to continue to inform and inspire visitors to spend money at our bed and breakfasts, restaurants, museums, hotels, and attractions. If we don’t capture their attention and inspire them to come, they won’t, and Pennsylvanians will suffer.

“What’s especially astounding to me is the reckless abandon with which the Senate bill treats Pennsylvania’s small business. Tourism businesses, by their very nature, are small businesses. The tourism office advertising exists entirely to support these small businesses with advertising and promotions in markets they could never reach on their own.”

Rowley also cited the example of Colorado, which eliminated its US$12 million state tourism marketing budget in the 1990s and saw a 30 percent decrease in market share in two years. That drop in visitation resulted in more than US$2 billion in lost sales, as well as hundreds of millions in lost state tax revenue. Funding was eventually restored in Colorado.

Pennsylvania is the nation’s fourth most-visited state, hosting nearly 140 million visitors each year, approximately 110 million of whom are leisure travelers. Those visitors contribute approximately US$26 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy, while international visitors contributed an additional US$2 billion.