Tourism directors meet with legislators

Local, state officials maintain ‘rapport,’ discuss budget
Tom Jackson
Apr 5, 2014
The more Ohio and local communities invest in fun, the more money comes back to them.

Lake Erie Shores and Islands directors Joan Van Offeren and Larry Fletcher met with several state legislators recently to deliver this message and drive home the importance of tourism.

“We are very fortunate to have legislators who we have an established rapport with and who are tourism savvy,” Van Offeren said. “Working with legislators is about building relationships. I learned long ago not to make your initial greeting about a request. Continue rapport, so when there is a need, you have a shared understanding of your industry and its importance, so your political contacts are much more receptive”

Tourism directors and legislators meet once a year to exchange dialogue on the industry, and the most recent such meeting was March 19.    Tourism officials said they appreciate the state’s decision to increase the TourismOhio budget, which was approved by legislators last year. The TourismOhio budget is based on yearover-year growth in tourism sales tax, and its funding is capped at $10 million.

That’s double the $5 million the state previously spent on tourism promotion through the general fund, but it still may not be enough.

Tourism sales in Ohio generated $2.7 billion in state and local taxes, making it one of the top five industries in the Buckeye State, with a payroll of $10.6 billion.

Every $1 spent on tourism marketing generates about 15 times that amount in economic activity.

As such, it’s important to lift the $10 million cap on the marketing budget, industry officials said. The cap limits the work that can be done by TourismOhio, directors at the March 19 meeting told legislators, including State Sen. Randy Gardner and State Reps. Chris Redfern, Mike Dovilla and Cheryl Grossman.

While legislators have made no commitment to lifting the cap, industry leaders said it’s important to make the request face-to- face.

Van Offeren and Fletcher also talked to legislators about possibly adding a representative from the Lake Erie area to the TourismOhio Advisory Board.