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.