An estimated 2,500 Missouri hotel workers will lose their jobs due to the Department of Economic Development's decision to cut funding for the Missouri Division of Tourism by 35 percent.
When Gov. Nixon announced he was asking state agencies to trim their budgets last week, Missouri's travel industry had no idea that the Department of Economic Development would take $7 million of its $11.3 cut from the Division of Tourism, ordering most other departmental agencies to trim their budgets by only 10 percent or less. The department's proposal is tantamount to placing a lesser value on tourism, an industry that has significantly propped up the state's economy during these lean times.
Missouri's travel industry works in a unique partnership with the state's Division of Tourism, and the industry understands that 84 percent of the Division of Tourism's budget goes to advertising and cuts of this size can only come from that account. For every $1 invested by the state in marketing tourism, Missouri's economy sees a return of $48.13, according to the division's 2008 annual report. A cut of this size will be felt by travel-related businesses in both metropolitan and rural parts of the state.
These actions are in stark contrast to the Department of Economic Development's primary goal of attracting and retaining jobs. Missouri's hotel industry stands behind its projected job loss figures, noting that a cut of this magnitude will result in a five point drop in hotel occupancy and a $334 million decline in revenue for Missouri's travel industry.
To single out tourism to shoulder the burden of cuts from a Department of Economic Development budget of over $73 million will cost Missouri jobs and visitor-generated tax revenues at the time when the state's economy can least afford it.
Ramona Mormann is the executive director of the Missouri Hotel Lodging Association.