Alaska's tourism marketing arm, facing stiff competition, is asking the Legislature for a larger slice of the budget to help draw more visitors to the state.
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"I am very concerned that there is a complacency about tourism. We've done OK up to this point, but we are getting completely overtaken by other destinations," Patti Mackey, a board member of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, said at a Tuesday meeting of the House Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Committee.
"They are making extensive marketing campaigns that we can just no longer compete with."
The cost of marketing has increased, while the amount the state spends on it declines, said Ron Peck, the association's president. In 1990, he said, the state spent $23 million (adjusted for inflation) on marketing. In 2006, it spent $5.7 million.
Thirty-seven states spend more than Alaska on their tourism campaigns, he said. They include Tennessee, which recently used a photo of Alaska to market the southern state as a prime mountain biking location.
To listen to the presentation by the Alaska Travel Association at the Tuesday meeting of the House Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Committee, visit www.ktoo.com/gavel.
To learn more about the group, visit www.travelalaska.com.
The association also says that with increased travel industry taxes, such as the cruise ship tax, it will have less ability to raise money from businesses.
As a result, it is not only asking for the state to pay more, but to pay a larger share of its budget.
Two bills before the Legislature are designed to give the association more support.
House Bill 167, introduced by Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, would appropriate $18 million for the association. It also would allow $8.5 million to be appropriated from the vehicle rental tax account for a program designed to target independent travelers.
The state now gives a total of $5 million, which is matched by the association and raised by private donors.
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A second bill would make the state responsible for supplying 90 percent of the association's budget, compared to the current statute that requires it to match 50 percent.
That bill, HB 147, was introduced by House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez. He called it a "philosophical bill" that not only gives the association more money, but demonstrates the value of the tourist industry to Alaska.
"The state of Alaska has a big story to tell," he said.
The association had 1,040 businesses as members in 2006. One percent of them are large companies with 500 or more employees. Fifty-two percent are businesses with five employees or less.
The association formed in 1999, consolidating three agencies and organizations charged with marketing Alaska's tourist industry.
Time ran out for public testimony Tuesday, but will be heard at a March 20 meeting of the committee.
Brittany Retherford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.