The Valley's former state representative and Vermont's former commissioner of tourism and marketing, Bruce Hyde, wrote an opinion piece in this week's paper which urges the Legislature not to slash the tourism and marketing budget.
Hyde knows tourism from soup to nuts. He's an inn and restaurant owner. We agree with him. This is the wrong place to cut state funds.
Vermont's economy is tourism driven to a large degree and certainly our Valley is tourism dependent as are all of the state's ski area communities. The funds used to market the state are critical to bringing visitors into our state throughout the year.
Those funds directly translate to revenue for the state in the form of the rooms and meals tax. Those funds directly translate into money in the pockets of small business owners. Those funds directly translate into money into the pockets of Vermont's workers.
And, despite a sluggish economy, a recently released study on the impact of tourism reports an estimated 12.8 million visitor trips to Vermont in 2014. While the number of visitor trips was stable from 2011 to 2013, the amount of tourism revenue in 2013 was $2.49 billion, up from $2.30 billion in 2011.
As Hyde points out, a dollar spent in the state will return 10 or more tax dollars within a few months.
Visitor spending directly contributed $318 million in tax and revenues to the state in 2013. That's a lot of money, especially given that Vermont's $115 million budget shortfall is all that is in the news this session.
What if slashing the tourism and marketing budget by half reduced that $318 million by half? Consider what next year's budget deficit might be.
Would increasing the tourism and marketing budget by half increase those revenues enough to avoid a deficit next year? Given the tenor of the discussions in Montpelier this session, it would be a very hard sell to get the Legislature to increase tourism and marketing funding.
In a budgetary year like this, there can be no sacred cows, but maybe there should be some holy cows. An economic engine like tourism, which directly funnels money into every corner of the state, should be one of them.