Speaking Wednesday to a room full of tourism and hospitality professionals, along with politicians both local and state, Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne highlighted his commitment in the fight to protect the state's Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism funding. His speech was the keynote address at the Lt. Governor's Tourism Summit held in Lake Charles Jan. 22-24.
"[Pass throughs are] far and away are the largest chunk of our budget. That's money that, of the three one hundredths of a penny that should go toward advertising and marketing of Louisiana out-of-state, is peeled away before we ever get our hands on it and used to fund various things in the budget," said the Lt. Governor. "Our argument is, and will continue to be, that our budget should not be the one that funds the operational expenses of major events brought to Louisiana. There needs to a mechanism that provides funding that does not take away from our advertising and marketing budget."
This year that added up to $12.5 million immediately coming off the top of their $23 million budget. And next year is full of uncertainty.
"We are going to have a real challenge on our hands," said Dardenne, "We have to fund the entirety of the Super Bowl obligation of the state, which is $6 million, and the entire state's obligation for the Women's Final Four coming up later this year, which is $1 million. You think that as these aren't coming back next year, our budget would be restored the $7 million. We hope that will be the case, but we are not sure it will. We know now that New Orleans has attracted the NBA All-Star in 2014. That has a $3 million price tag on it that the state will have to come up with. We don't want it to come out of the advertising and marketing budget. We will make our case strong during the [legislative] session."
Despite the reduction in budget, Dardenne said that the department has tried to maintain the same level of spending on out-of-state advertising and marketing but it has come at the cost of other programs, such as the one that awards grants.
"We can't continue to do this if budget problems continue as they have in the past because we are struggling to maintain this," he stated.
In Louisiana, tourism equals big money, bringing in billions of dollars each year.
"Every dollar we spend [to promote the state] brings $17 back to the people of Louisiana, which is an incredible return on investment," said Dardenne.
"We are an industry. We are a business," he emphasized, "It is not acceptable to simply hold where we are. We need to be moving forward. We want to compete with Texas and Florida and not just Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. We want to compete with Atlanta, Orlando and Las Vegas for conventions. To do so, we have got to spend the money to get our message out, and the only way we can do this as a state is to get the money directed to us by law from the three one hundredths of a penny sales tax."
Page 2 of 2 - On the web:
Dept. of Culture, Recreation and Tourism: www.crt.state.la.us/