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The N.C. Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development is seeking more money for tourism marketing in the 2008-2009 state budget to keep up with other Southeastern states, all but one of which outspend N.C. every year.
The current year’s budget is $13.6 million, compared to $28.1 million in South Carolina and $18.5 million in Virginia.
Among Southern states, only Alabama has a smaller tourism marketing budget, $12.6 million.
So far, Gov. Mike Easley has submitted a spending plan that keepsw the tourism budget steady, with an additional $750,000 for non-recurring expenses—the same as last year’s special appropriation.
The state House has requested an additional $500,000, while the Senate has not yet submitted a proposal.
“It’s a long process before the final budget comes out,” said Lynn Minges, executive director of the tourism division.
“We’re optimistic,” she said, noting the competitive nature of the budget process.
“Our legislators are faced with lots of challenges in trying to put together a good budget,” Minges said. “There’s a number of folks vying for attention, and they go typically to where they see the greatest need. I hope for them to see how good our record is.”
In March, the Brunswick County Tourism Development Authority went on record as asking for an additional $5 million in the state budget, and the resolution the board adopted also received the approval of the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce and the towns of Carolina Shores, Caswell Beach and Sunset Beach.
TDA Executive Director Mitzi York passed all the resolutions of support to state Reps. Bonner Stiller and Dewey Hill, state Sen. R.C. Soles and the tourism division.
The resolution emphasizes the fact that North Carolina “consistently ranks” among the top 10 states in visitation while its marketing budget ranks only 21st in the nation and eighth among its southern competitors.
The resolution cites South Carolina as a main competitor.
“South Carolina has increased its budget to approximately $46 million for 2008-09 and will be investing in domestic marketing and advertising at a more than 3:1 advantage over North Carolina,” it states.
According to a study cited in the resolution, North Carolina receives $185 in new visitor spending and more than $15 in state and local tax revenues for every dollar invested in paid advertising, a return on investment of more than 15:1.
Based on those findings and on a 2007 study of the economic impact of tourism on the state’s economy, “an additional $5 million for the division’s statewide marketing efforts would generate $925 million in new visitor spending and more than $75 million in new state and local tax revenues.”
After the authority approved the resolution, TDA Chairman Kemp Causey commented, “If we do get the $5 million [increase], the state of North Carolina’s tourism budget will be approximately what the City of Myrtle Beach’s is. That’s overwhelming to me.”
The authority also received resolutions of support from the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce and the towns of Carolina Shores, Caswell Beach and Sunset Beach. York passed them on to the area’s state representatives as well as to the state Division of Tourism.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” state Rep. Stiller said about increasing the tourism budget. “Tourism is our economic engine for eastern North Carolina.”
Stiller said the return on investment makes tourism marketing worth the price.
“It’s not a significant amount of money, yet it produces a tremendous return. It needs to be increased. When you compare us to South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Florida, they all had budgets greater than ours.”
“We should not be spending money for the sake of spending if we’re not getting a return, but the rate of return is significant,” he added.
Kemp Causey, chairman of the Brunswick County Tourism Development Authority said he doesn’t think the state will get the $5 million for which so many groups have asked, but he’s sure the budget will be increased, especially considering South Carolina has budgeted an additional $10 million.