[an error occurred while processing this directive]

States revive sappy tourism ads

virginia_is_for_lovers.top.jpg By Annalyn Censky, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- At a time when states are slashing spending to deal with their staggering budget shortfalls, there's one area they're not cutting from: their state tourism ads.

Think "Virginia is for Lovers," "Connecticut: Closer than you think," and "Explore Minnesota."

In fact, many states are increasing their funding for these campaigns, all in a race to lure the most tourism dollars and create jobs at hotels, restaurants and attractions.

In his budget proposal earlier this week, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy proposed steep spending cuts and tax hikes to balance the state's whopping $3.2 billion deficit.

But at the same time, Malloy wants to increase spending by $15 million on Connecticut's tourism ad campaign. The state's tourism commission used to have $4.3 million a year to play with, but after the recession hit, Connecticut cut its marketing budget down to a single dollar in fiscal 2009 and 2010.

It's an investment that "will certainly pay for itself," said the state's secretary of policy and management Benjamin Barnes on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Michigan's governor Rick Snyder, who is grappling with a $1.4 billion deficit, wants to ramp up the "Pure Michigan" campaign to $25 million this year. At the same time, Michigan is proposing $1.2 billion in cuts to schools, universities and local governments.

The proposal already passed in Michigan's House with overwhelming support, and is expected to fly through the Senate next week.

"At a time when our state has been suffering from a changing world economy, and losses in manufacturing, it's been critically important that we replace those jobs in tourism," said Dave Lorenz, a spokesman for the Pure Michigan campaign. "People understand that we're helping to fill that void."

Nearby Minnesota -- which has a $6.2 billion deficit -- is even considering a 1% sales tax on rental cars to help raise $2.6 million or more dedicated to tourism marketing.

And Virginia -- which was one of the few states to end fiscal 2010 with a budget surplus -- is bringing back its famous "Virginia is for Lovers" commercials this spring. Huge budget cuts forced Virginia to cut back on television spots for the past five years.

While these tourism commercials can often border on cheesy, state tourism directors say they're worth every penny, despite the massive fiscal challenges this year.

"The bottom line is, tourism brings in money," said Tamra Talmadge-Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Tourism Corporation. "Tourists come to Virginia. They have a wonderful time, they spend, and that money is used to support key services throughout the state."

Virginia's government estimates that every $1 invested in its tourism marketing, brings $5 back to the state in tax revenue alone. Michigan estimates that it gets just under $3 in taxes for each $1 invested on marketing.

While these states are hoping investing in tourism will help close part of their budget gaps, one state is bucking the promotional trend.

California, already one of the most traveled-to states, is not investing more taxpayer dollars in its tourism commercials this year. Facing a $25 billion deficit, the government gives its tourism commission just shy of $1 million a year, and has been doing so since 2008.

That said, the agency keeps a $50 million annual budget, funded 98% by private industry partners. And for that reason, it can continue producing some of the splashiest, buzz-worthy ads yet.

In October, California premiered a three-ad series totaling $12.3 million, featuring a star-studded cast including Betty White, Jason Mraz, the Jonas Brothers and a bikini-clad Kim Kardashian reading a book on quantum physics. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,083.80 -2.83 -0.02%
Nasdaq 4,472.11 0.00 0.00%
S&P 500 1,987.98 0.97 0.05%
Treasuries 2.51 0.04 1.83%
Data as of 2:43am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Facebook Inc 74.98 3.69 5.18%
Ford Motor Co 17.84 0.06 0.34%
Yahoo! Inc 36.17 1.46 4.21%
Bank of America Corp... 15.62 0.10 0.64%
Apple Inc 97.03 -0.16 -0.16%
Data as of Jul 24

Sections

Would you pay $7.76 for a Big Mac? The Economist's iconic Big Mac index is a lighthearted way to compare currencies and buying power around the world. More

The government says health insurers are charging lower premiums, thanks to a provision in Obamacare. More

In New York City, business travelers have ditched meals at Starbucks in favor of Seamless takeout, according to a new report. More

CNNMoney readers rip managers who micromanage to death, play favorites, throw their staff under the bus and steal credit for their work. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.