Today, Representative Jason Grenn (I-Anchorage) introduced legislation to allow tourism businesses in Alaska to work together to promote Alaska as a one-of-a-kind tourism destination. House Bill 383 would create a “Travel Alaska Board” and establish a funding mechanism through which sectors of the tourism industry may vote to assesses themselves to pay for tourism marketing.
“Tourism is a bright spot for our struggling economy, and we should do everything possible to support, strengthen, and expand the industry. The ongoing fiscal crisis makes it difficult for the state to support tourism directly, but we can make it easier for sectors of the tourism industry to work together to support themselves,” said Rep. Grenn. “Alaska is a place of wonder for millions of people across the globe who dream about that once in a lifetime trip to our great state. With an effective funding structure and proper support, the potential growth for tourism is nearly limitless.”
Due to the size and scope of Alaska’s fiscal challenges, state funding to support tourism marketing in Alaska declined to just $1.5 million FY 2017, down from $16 million in FY 2014. The Alaska Legislature included intent language in the FY 2017 budget calling on the tourism industry in Alaska to create a self-sustaining program funded by tourism businesses, similar to the way the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is funded by seafood processors and harvesters. Currently, the Alaska Tourism Marketing Board is scheduled to sunset at the end of June.
HB 383 would create a “Travel Alaska Board” with the authority to manage a new funding mechanism allowing industry payers to vote in, increase, decrease, or eliminate an assessment on themselves to fund statewide marketing efforts. As stipulated in the bill, assessment rates could range between .25 and 2 percent of the total gross revenue of different sectors of the tourism industry.
“Many of us are working to end the lingering recession, and I believe a thriving tourism industry will be a key factor in our success,” said Rep. Grenn. “In working extensively with the Alaska Travel Industry Association, the Alaska Tourism Marketing Board, and Senator Costello, I believe we’ve found an innovative path forward to ensuring the long-term health of this vital industry.”
The tourism industry is currently Alaska’s second largest private sector employer, and research suggests that every dollar spent on tourism marketing results in $58 in visitor spending and $2.84 in state and local taxes.
House Bill 383 was formally introduced during today’s House floor session and referred to the House Finance Committee and the Special Committee on Arctic Policy, Economic Development, and Tourism. The companion bill in the State Senate is Senate Bill 110 sponsored by Senator Mia Costello (R-Anchorage).