Don’t hamstring tourism

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Tourism is the second largest industry in Montana—a true success story and one we can all be proud of. Currently House Bill 316 is being considered by the Montana Legislature, calling for diverting a portion of revenue and/or future allocations from over 20 state accounts, including the 4 percent Lodging Facility Use Tax.

As Executive Director of Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission (the officially recognized tourism region for Western Montana including Ravalli, Missoula, Lake, Mineral, Sanders, Lincoln, Flathead and Glacier counties, the Flathead Indian Reservation and the Blackfoot Nation), we have the pleasure of working with individuals, businesses, organizations, tribal partners and communities to promote our area as a travel destination.

Our lodging industry already collects and sends 3 percent of the 7 percent accommodations tax to the general fund. In FY 2010, it deposited $12,330,846 into the state’s general fund. If more money were diverted to the fund, it would hurt the programs and marketing outreach conducted by tourism agencies (like Glacier Country and Montana Office of Tourism) that work to bring visitors and new money into our economy.

Of the 10 million visitors that come to our state every year, western Montana has the pleasure of hosting approximately one-third of those visitors either on their way to or from Glacier National Park. We also directly receive the same share of the $2.3 billion in non-resident expenditures paid by those visitors or approximately $750 million. They did not come on their own. They were reached out to through organizations and programs supported by the 4 percent Lodging Facility Use Tax. To see any of that taken away or manipulated would be a travesty.

This bill would also have a disastrous impact on our cities, health/insurance programs, education, heritage preservation and environmental programs as it is directly impacting funding for them as well. Please contact your local legislative representatives and help protect this vital part of our economy.

Racene Friede

Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission

Missoula

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