House Republicans says it’s time to plug more money into the state’s tourism budget. Representative Steven Lukan, a Republican from New Vienna, also pledges to put up more state money to help local attractions place ads in national publications, like the Ladies Home Journal or the Chicago Tribune. “We can try to attract some new tourists to our area,” Lukan says.
Republicans in the House pledge to spend 750-thousand more on tourism promotion than Governor Tom Vilsack recommended. Lukan estimates the total state tourism promotion budget would then be about four-million dollars. Lukan says for every dollar spent on tourism advertising, six dollars is spent in the Iowa economy. Iowa’s tourism advertising budget hit six-point-two-million dollars in 2000, but the current budget is almost half that.
Kim Berger, manager of the Cedar Falls Tourism and Visitors Bureau, is president of the Travel Federation of Iowa this year. “We’ve been kind of going the wrong way for several years and we’re very excited about this additional investment in our economic future,” she says. “We’ll be able to purchase some out-of-state, multi-media advertising as a result of this additional money.”
Representative Mike May, a Republican who runs a resort in Spirit Lake, says out-of-state advertising is key. “Last year, when we finished the (legislative) session, I went home and turned on the television and virtually every state around us had multi-media ads attracting our citizens out of the state of Iowa to their state,” May says. “Unfortunately, we didn’t counter that with anything because we didn’t have the money for it so we think that if we can get in the multi-media business and can market Iowa the same way other states do that it’ll certainly help us.”
The Travel Federation of Iowa had asked for an eight million dollar state tourism advertising budget to bring it the regional average. Berger says if Iowa ends up with a four-million dollar budget, as House Republicans propose, it’ll be far less than what is spent by Missouri and Illinois. “We see the advertisements from Wisconsin and Missouri and all of our surrounding states,” she says. “But if you’re in another state, you’re not seeing advertisements about Iowa.”
But Berger says after years of cuts in tourism marketing, Iowa’s tourism industry will be encouraged to see an increase. No word from Democrats in the Iowa House, yet, as to whether they support an increase in the tourism budget.