Legislative wordsmiths are still working on a bill that would provide $55 million over a 10-year period to help the state promote tourist destinations to out-of-staters.

The latest draft, discussed Wednesday by the Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Interim Committee, included more-specific language about how the funding would phase out. Last month, the committee considered dropping the initial $10 million appropriation by 10 percent annually. The latest draft cuts the initial amount by $1 million a year. The first year for funding would be the 2005-06 fiscal year.

The committee did not vote on the draft because of more expected alterations.

The latest draft also includes further changes in the memberships and duties of the Board of Travel Development, also known as the Utah Travel Council, and defines business types that would have "sales of tourism-oriented goods and services."

In addition to the general fund money, the draft also calls for setting aside a percentage of the increase in tourism-generated tax revenue to fund tourism promotion and creates and funds a cooperative program with cities, counties and nonprofit organizations to advertise and promote tourism.

The set-aside would be in years 2006 through 2015 and would be half of tourism-related sales and use tax revenue increases above a 3 percent increase. It would be capped at $3 million for any fiscal year.

Less than $1 million is spent by the state on advertising to out-of-staters, and counties do some promotion through car-rental and restaurant taxes. Ski resorts and Ski Utah spend a total of $10 million to $12 million annually on promotion.

Travel council research indicates that tourism promotion pays off, with the state getting an $8.64 return through increased tourist spending for every dollar spent on promotion.

Two measures involving tourism funding, SB60 and SB208, died in the 2004 general session. SB208 died because the lodging and restaurant associations were against increased taxes that would have applied to their industries. SB60 polarized the tourism industry because it would have focused efforts on only four ski resorts.


E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com