A new mechanism to increase funding for tourism in Ohio is such a good idea that commissioners from Trumbull and Mahoning counties should adopt a similar formula to fund regional tourism.
Ohio Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, was one of the legislators behind the tourism funding bill last year. TourismOhio's budget, currently $5 million annually, could increase to $10 million based on its success.
The state will use this fiscal year (July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013) as the benchmark. In the next fiscal year, a percentage of the growth in tourism-related sales taxes will be committed to TourismOhio in addition to the $5 million already budgeted. This way, if the tourism marketers do a good job, they get more money to promote tourism and the additional revenue does not result in a higher tax rate or the raiding of any other program's budget.
Some of this should assist the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau and the Mahoning Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In addition, Cafaro's bill allows the Development Services Agency, which oversees the Office of TourismOhio, to partner with organizations and businesses to create marketing programs. Locally, the Trumbull and Mahoning travel bureaus should aggressively pursue such partnerships.
Locally, tourism is supported by a 5 percent bed tax in Trumbull and Mahoning counties. But most of that revenue is given to the Western Reserve Port Authority, even though all of it is generated through tourism.
Like Cafaro's new state program, local commissioners should incentivize how the bed tax is dispersed. If the tourism bureaus more successfully market the Mahoning Valley as a travel destination, thus increasing the bed tax revenue, the bureaus should receive more money.
Likewise, the Port Authority should be expected to generate revenue, whether from fees assessed on airlines and their passengers or interest from economic development loans and property transfers, or both.
Lacking incentive to succeed, however, the Port Authority has lacked success.