When it comes to tourism the two gubernatorial candidates aren’t too far apart on the idea that the state needs to spend money to make money.
Democratic Dan Malloy said Wednesday he would dedicate $15 million of the state’s budget toward marketing Connecticut’s culture and tourism industry.
Republican Tom Foley’s campaign spokeswoman Liz Osborn said her candidate believes “tourism is an important part of our economy and we need to invest in it.”
Just how big that investment will be can’t be determined independently of a full budget discussion, Osborn said.
On a tour of the new Connecticut Science Center Wednesday Malloy said he firmly believes we need to build a sizeable budget devoted to promoting Connecticut outside of Connecticut.
“I’m tired of seeing you know Cape Cod advertised, the Adirondack’s advertised, Michigan advertised, Colorado advertised in Fairfield County, and knowing we’re not advertising Connecticut,” Malloy said.
“Somebody in Boston had the bright idea of getting a red can paint and putting a strip down the street and now they’re eating our lunch. Well it‘s time to get back in the game.”
He said the $15 million he envisions using to market Connecticut’s destinations comes from the $1.3 billion generated by the tourism industry in the state.
What would he cut to find the money when the state is facing a $3.4 billion deficit?
“It would displace less important things,” Malloy said.
What he wasn’t sure of was what the appropriate level of state subsidy should be to institutions like the Science Center, which opened its doors in June 2009 shortly after Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the legislature cut its subsidy and the subsidy of all other similar attractions.
“The state can subsidize, but eventually most everything is going to have to operate on its own,” Rell said the day she cut the ribbon at the Science Center.
Edward Main, publicist for the Connecticut Science Center, said about 65 percent of its costs are funded by the price of admission. Its 15 percent state subsidy was cut to 8 percent for both 2009 and 2010, but it has since made up some of the slack by meeting its projected admission levels during its inaugural year.
But for the candidates tourism is about more than dollars and cents, it’s about the return on the investment.
What this boils down to is priorities, Malloy said.
“I think an industry that along with the rest of the hospitality industry represents 10 percent of your workforce is something you spend more than a $1 promoting,” Malloy said.
Foley’s spokeswoman wouldn’t say how much her candidate would be willing to spend, “But investing in this sector would be a priority.”
“How much we need to spend can’t be determined independently of a full discussion about the budget,” she added.