Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Colorado tourism budget comes back to life

Colorado tourism got an injection of life with its smart new "Come to Life" campaign. And while it had looked like the Colorado Tourism Office's budget might be headed for life-support, it just got an injection of of new/old money.

Like the tourism industry itself, state funding has always had its rough seasons. In 1993, Colorado's tourism budget of $12 million was slashed to exactly zero. The Colorado Tourism Office, the latest iteration of an official state booster group, was started in 2000 with a budget of $5 million; ten years later, that kitty had grown to $15 million.

In last-year's cash-strapped economy, the CTO's budget was reduced to $12 million, and although the CTO was going for $15 million again this year, the legislature had been looking at cutting that budget by $5 million, to $9.6 million.

But with some fast work by the tourism and hospitality industries -- led by lobbyist Bill Artist and applauded at last night's Colorado Restaurant Association awards ceremony -- the proposed CTO budget has been bumped back up to $13.3 million. The move by the Joint Budget Committee would supplement the tourism budget -- funded by gaming taxes -- with an additional $3.7 million.

If it's approved by the full legislature, that is. And lawmakers should sign off on the deal: After all, that money is finally going to a smart campaign that could bring tourism to life.

Read Patricia Calhoun's "Top 7 ways to improve Colorado tourism" here.