Gov. Haslam's proposed budget includes tourism cuts - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Gov. Haslam's proposed budget includes tourism cuts

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Our NBC News partners at WBIR are reporting that tourism dollars in Tennessee could take a hit based on Governor Bill Haslam's new budget for the next fiscal year.

The state spends millions on advertising to attract visitors to Tennessee; but Gov. Haslam is proposing that budget be cut in half.

For the FY 2013-2014, the Department of Tourist Development's direct marketing budget was $8 million. Gov. Haslam originally proposed that budget be cut to $6 million. However, he recently reduced it to $4 million.

Sevier County Hospitality Alliance President Ken Maples is asking legislators to reconsider. Maples is hoping it can at least go back to $6 million.

"While we understand the shortfall, we're just reminding him and the legislators that you're cutting a budget that produces sales tax dollars for the state of Tennessee," Maples said.

According to Maples, Sevier County and its cities (Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg) spend collectively approximately $18 million dollars each year on advertising. About 75% of that money is used for out-of-state advertising.

"We have about a 40 to 1 return on investment on tourism dollars," Maples said.

Pigeon Forge had a record-breaking year in 2013, bringing in $937 million in gross receipts.

"Pigeon Forge and really all of Sevier County had a record year in 2012. We beat that in 2013," Maples said.

He went on to say, "If you increase your ad budget, I promise it will pay off for you."

The state's advertising gives them an extra boost. Most of that money goes outside the state, as well.

"The majority of the state budget goes to television advertising, TV commercials. Again, outside the state in our core markets, typically those states that touch us. And then obviously a lot of it goes into digital, website, social media, things like that," Maples explained.

Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, represents Blount and Sevier Counties and is against the cut.

"I really hated to see that there had been a further reduction in the cooperative advertising budget," Sen. Overbey told 10News during a phone interview.

He went on to say, "I asked some pointed questions about this line item and pointed out in the past we've been told for every dollar the state spends on advertising, it generates about $19 in revenue and I think anybody would take that deal."

Sen Overbey said the TN Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee will review the proposed cut this week.

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