Tourism plan again in doubt in Senate

Posted: Friday, April 05, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- A proposal to give $2 million to the state's tourism industry for an emergency marketing campaign is again in doubt in the state Senate.

Senate Rules Chairman Randy Phillips, R-Eagle River, said Thursday the funding will be eliminated from a ''fast track'' supplemental bill now in his committee.

Phillips said there is no support among Republicans in the Senate to give the industry funds for a marketing campaign to offset expected declines in visitors this year.

''There isn't support, generally speaking, in the Senate for this. I have a problem with it, my constituents don't like it,'' Phillips said.

Phillips said he was unable to reach an agreement with the Alaska Travel Industry Association on a plan to aid the industry.

Among the plans offered to ATIA were support of a cruise ship head tax to support the industry, a matching grant or an advance in next year's funding, Phillips said.

Association President Tina Lindgren said the industry has the support of several senators and that Phillips and others are standing in the way of its passage.

''There are a handful of senators who have been blocking this from a vote. We think if they were ever to take a full vote of the Senate, it would pass,'' Lindgren said.

Lindgren said there is no plans for a lobbying push to try to influence senators this session. The summer tourism season is set to start soon and the funding would likely be too late to help this year, she said.

''I think we certainly made our case,'' Lindgren said. ''It's unfortunate, because the people who need it most are the small businesses.''

The travel industry association had asked for $12 million in state funds earlier this year to counter an expected drop in tourists to Alaska this year.

The drop was anticipated because of a slumping economy and new travel fears following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

International tourism groups have said early bookings have been down sharply. In Alaska, tourism officials report a similar drop. An association survey showed early bookings in every sector of the state's tourism industry are down by an average 24 percent.

The tourism plan approved in the House hit a snag in the Senate as cruise ship companies began reporting improved advance bookings for the season.

European travel is expected to dip significantly this summer, prompting some cruise ship companies to move ships to Alaska's waters.

The association is requesting $1.89 million for an intensive two-month advertising campaign with national cable stations and another $153,000 for other tourism activities.

The group said earlier through an impact statement that the association has no more money for television advertising this year to wage a campaign in April and May.

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