Promoters of Missouri tourism brace for budget cuts

By CJ Cassidy - bio | email

Would you visit a state or town you know nothing about?
That's the question folks in Missouri's tourism industry want to know as they brace for a crippling blow.
Commercials promote the Show-Me State, but promoters of tourism worry budget cuts could leave them with nothing to show in the years ahead.
"The Department of Economic Development took 64 percent of its $11 million cut out of the Division of Tourism, out of one agency, leaving some other areas completely unscathed," Gary Figgins said.
He is the editor of the Show-Me Missouri magazine, and says he does his best to attract visitors.  Still, he points out the state can't expect tourism to grow in the face of cuts.
"The division of tourism is not going to have any alternative but to look at advertising," he said.
He's also worried about people losing their jobs, and cites a study by the Missouri Hotel Association.
"They estimate within the first year or two this could cost 2500 jobs in the hotel industry alone."
Chuck Martin with the Convention and Visitors Bureau in Cape Girardeau agrees.  He says smaller cities depend on advertising campaigns to bring people to their communities.
"Very few people know we have a four percent hotel tax in Cape and a one percent restaurant tax.  In the past year we collected in taxes over $1,700,000.  There wouldn't be a Show-Me Center, there wouldn't be a River Campus, without those dollars being in place."
Even out of state visitors agree Missouri could use a little more self promotion.
"It's been beautiful, historic, lovely, talked about staying in the St. Louis area, maybe even the Cape Girardeau area," one tourist said.
Incidentally, tourism is the second biggest business in Missouri behind agriculture, and Gary Figgins hopes the governor asks state leaders to re-evaluate those proposed cuts.

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