The Missouri Senate is working on the state budget and making significant changes to the budget passed by the House. The House version calls for a $13.4 million budget for the Division of Tourism, the same amount as last year and the year prior.

Unfortunately, the Senate cut $3.2 million from the Division of Tourism’s budget. That puts the Cooperative Marketing Program at risk; indications are that the program will be eliminated or, at the very least, significantly reduced. The Cooperative Marketing Program is a matching grants program that provides about $450,000 to the Springfield CVB’s marketing programs.

If the Cooperative Marketing Program is cut, the CVB’s ability to market Springfield as a travel destination would be drastically reduced. Our 2013 leisure advertising campaign could be nearly eliminated and convention and sports marketing significantly reduced. The result would be declines in visitation, conventions and sports events.

The impact extends beyond Springfield. The Cooperative Marketing Program provides $3.1 million in matching grants to destination marketing organizations throughout the state.

Industry leaders are encouraging the industry to immediately call and email the following senators:

Points to emphasize are that not only will the Division of Tourism’s marketing budget be significantly reduced, the Cooperative Marketing Program could be eliminated causing additional marketing reductions around the state. Although this cut may plug a hole this year, it will cause more budget holes in the future as a result of significantly less visitation to the state resulting from devastated marketing budgets. Reductions in visitation will result in the loss of tourism-related jobs and tax revenues generated by tourists and would further negatively affect the state’s economy.

It is also important to point out that the U.S. Senate introduced the JOLT Act (Jobs Originated Through Launching Tourism) designed to grow tourism by making it easier for international visitors to come to the United States. The act, co-sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt and others, shows that federal legislators understand the role tourism plays in the nation’s economic recovery. Tourism creates jobs and job creation will lead the country out of the recession. We would hope our state legislators understand that as well.

We really do need your help. Please make some calls and thank you in advance for your assistance.