Tourism officials were in Albany last week to urge legislators to maintain current funding levels for tourism marketing.
Some 200 people representing tourist organizations from across New York met with lawmakers last Tuesday, angling to keep about $7.4 million in tourism marketing funds in the budget for 2011-2012.
Officials told legislators that effective tourism marketing and promotion helps the state's economy by bringing in more visitors.
The Tourism Industry Coalition of New York State says visitors spent nearly $46 billion in New York in 2009, translating to approximately $7 billion in state and local taxes.
"The I Love New York program, like other state agencies, saw a 10 percent decline in its funding, which brings it down to about $3.6 million," said Jim McKenna, president and CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau.
But despite that spending reduction, McKenna says there is reason for tourism groups to be optimistic about the upcoming fiscal year.
According to McKenna, the state is maintaining current funding levels for a program that provides aid to localities - the I Love New York Matching Funds program.
That program will be funded to the tune of $3.8 million, McKenna says.
"That money is for organizations like our, who have to match the funding in order to access it, and then it has to follow strict guidelines for marketing purposes," he said.
State Senator Betty Little says the matching program has been a huge success in the Adirondacks, noting that local groups like ROOST have used those funds effectively over the years.
McKenna notes that former Gov. David Paterson pulled funding for the matching program last year.
"But it looks like Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeing the value of that program," he said. "Because it is a matching program and it is now on the table again. In fact, we're looking at about $68,000 for our organization that we will match for specific Essex County marketing programs. We're pretty psyched about that."
Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy has since confirmed that matching funds will be included in the budget for 2011-2012.
Senator Little notes that maintaining funding for tourism marketing benefits New York state.
"I think that tourism is something we need to invest in," she said. "It does a lot for our economy and we're dependent upon it in many ways. As tough as things are and as much as we're making cutbacks, you need to continue working to create jobs and business and improve our economy - that's something that tourism does."
Still, McKenna notes that over the years, funding for the I Love New York marketing program has taken repeated hits.
"That's outreach marketing around the country and also in Europe and we're not sure where that's going," he said. "But as far as the matching program is concerned, we're happy about that."
Meanwhile, Senator Little hopes the state will be able to reopen the Gateway Welcome Information Centers in Beekmantown and Binghamton.
Both facilities were closed late last year as a result of the state's ongoing fiscal crisis.
"It's all about first impressions, and when you're driving into the Adirondacks and see that a welcome center is closed - well, that is not a good first impression," Little said.
McKenna agrees, noting that the Beekmantown welcome center serves as a gateway to travelers from Canada.
Gov. Cuomo wants lawmakers to pass a budget by April 1.