Lt. Gov. office to spend $4.2 million on advertising for the State

January 26 2011 | Latest News
BP has not given the $30 million to Louisiana yet, but Lt. Gov. Dardenne can't wait on it...

January 25, 2011, 10:30 PM

By Ed Anderson, The Times-Picayune

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Tuesday that his office will cobble together a $4.2 million tourism advertising budget for a spring campaign to help lure tourists who were reluctant to come to the state in 2010 because of the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Addressing a joint meeting of the Louisiana Tourism Promotion District, the agency that oversees a special tourism tax, and the Louisiana Tourism Development Commission, an agency that gives input on tourism activities, Dardenne said he does not want to use any of the $30 million that BP has promised the state to promote tourism. He said the oil company has not yet paid that sum.

When that payment arrives, the state will keep $6 million for its marketing campaign and turn the rest over to local and parish tourism agencies.

Dardenne, who doubles as the state secretary of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, said the state's tourism budget now has less than $1 million in it for the spring ad campaign, projected to get under way March 29.

He won approval from the boards to shift about $2 million in surplus money from another area of his budget, and $1.3 million that was set aside to help stage and promote the Sugar Bowl to help pay for the ad campaign, to be unveiled today.

The shift of the $3.3 million also needs approval from the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget before it can be used.

Dardenne said officials at the Sugar Bowl have agreed to give back the $1.3 million this year and next year to help the state promote tourism. "The Sugar Bowl is not asking for any" this year or next year, he said. "They are sitting on a surplus."

For several years, the Sugar Bowl, the Independence Bowl and other sports and cultural events have asked the Legislature for financial help in staging their events. A few years ago, the funding source was shifted from the state general fund to the tourism department.

Dardenne said that he will "begin a crusade" to have the projects again financed outside of his office or will ask for more authority in determining how much money the events get. He said they now cost his office $3 million to $5 million a year.

"These should be stand-alone projects funded by the Legislature or I should be able to decide how much to spend and not told what to spend," he said.

He said the state should be spending more than $4 million to market itself to the rest of the world, and recovering some of the money that passes through his office for the special events is "a very, very good first step."

Dardenne said he will use the BP money, when it arrives, to supplement the state's tourism advertising efforts this year.

The state tourism office is financed by 0.03 percent of the state's 4 percent general sales tax. The tourism tax is expected to generate about $21 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Earlier, Melody Alijani, the department's director of research and development, said a recent study shows leisure tourism will be down by $691 million through 2013 because of the oil spill, but the loss will be softened by an increase of $395 million in business travel to the state -- mainly from media outlets and cleanup crews assigned to the spill. The net loss, she said, is expected to be about $295 million.

"That is a good overall estimate," Alijani told the boards. "That number can be reduced based on the amount of money and effort we put into" advertising and marketing.

She said a follow-up study will be done in March to see if the attitudes of tourists have changed about visiting the state.