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Lawmakers looking for ways to fund tourism marketing


State lawmakers want to create a way for the tourism industry to fund its own marketing operations.

A bill each in the House and Senate each would create a tourism marketing board and establish a marketing fund. The change is driven by annual multi-billion dollar budget gaps that puts marketing funds at the end of the line.

Four years ago, Alaska’s tourism marketing budget was $16 million– but that was before budget cuts entered into the discussion. This year, Gov. Bill Walker’s budget proposal would cover $3 million for marketing, and the Legislature hasn’t approved that sum yet.

A bill by House Rep. Jason Grenn – H.B. 383 – would also create tourism improvement districts to help the industry finance its marketing efforts. It’s called enabling legislation that allows the proposed industry board to generate funds through self-assessments. The money would come from surcharges on industry business such as tour activities, vehicle rentals and lodges.

Two years ago, the legislature told the $2 billion industry it needed to become self-funded.

“This is a response to that request, working with the industry, working with the private sector and state government coming together with a great solution that is going to continue, the highlight, the spotlight on the tourism industry in Alaska,” Grenn said.

Efforts in the Capitol came a few weeks after the cruise line industry announced projected growth in passenger over the next two years.

The Cruise Lines International Association reported slightly more than 1 million passengers visiting Alaska in 2017. That number is projected to reach 1.16 million this year and 1.3 million in 2019.

Even as Alaska naturally sells itself as a destination, Grenn says marketing still is a must to sustain what he calls a “bright spot”, in Alaska’s economy.

“Everyone asks why do you need to promote Alaska?” Grenn said “Everybody knows about Alaska; everyone wants to come to Alaska.

“You know Coca-Cola spends $3 billion a year on advertising. Everyone knows about Coco-Cola but they still continue that marketing machine so you’re at that top of mind awareness.”

The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill similar to Grenn’s.

Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.

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