From the Central Penn Business Journal
by CPBJ Staff
The tourism industry, like most other industries in Central Pennsylvania, has suffered in the recession’s icy grip. But as the thaw toward recovery continues, a new threat has emerged: cuts in state tourism funding.
In preparing his final fiscal budget proposal, Gov. Ed Rendell is calling for state tourism promotion funding cuts to a level that’s 65 percent lower than 2008-09.
The tourism industry ranks second in the commonwealth, and Pennsylvania is the fourth-most visited state in the country, according to state industry tourism representatives. The industry generates more than $10 billion in wages and benefits each year and benefits 400,000 employees.
To say it’s not a valuable component of our economy would be a mistake.
There’s no doubt that in tough economic times, everyone must make sacrifices. PA Tourism, which comprises 49 tourism promotion agencies representing all 67 counties of the commonwealth, is asking the governor to restore tourism funding to $24 million for the next fiscal year. The number represents a 20 percent reduction from 2008-09 but is considerably higher than the $11.25 million on Rendell’s drawing board.
The group’s request might seem excessive, especially considering the scores of critical programs vying for the same state dollars. But consider this: Every dollar pumped into tourism yields at least $25 in tax revenue from visitor spending, according to PA Tourism, and that yield helps pay for education and social programs.
State funding helps tourism officials promote and market the region and develop and improve venues. Therefore, it’s important to continue attracting visitors to this region and to the venues among the Dutch Country Roads’ lifeblood — Hersheypark, Lancaster’s Sight & Sound Theatres and Dutch Wonderland, minor league ballparks, wineries, outdoor recreational facilities, the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and many of the smaller attractions scattered between Lebanon and Gettysburg and Lancaster and western Cumberland County.
As the budget negotiations continue, we encourage our legislators to think hard about changing state pensions, benefits and retirement ages to create a more affordable government rather than skinning the backs of industries — such as tourism — that ultimately fund important programs.