Alaska tourism officials to make case for more state funding

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Representatives of Alaska's travel industry plan to descend on the Alaska Legislature on April 1 to plead for a larger share of tax money to fund tourism marketing initiatives in 2010.

The annual Legislative Fly-In takes on particular importance this year as Alaska's travel industry faces an expected steep drop in visitors and tourism spending in light of the worldwide financial crisis.

The fly-in is sponsored by the Alaska Travel Industry Association, the state's main tourism marketing group, which hopes to grow the state's tourism marketing funding to at least $20 million, a figure it said it needs for Alaska to stay competitive and find new ways to attract visitors.

"The primary purpose for this fly-in is to urge the legislature to include funding for tourism marketing," the ATIA said on its website, www.alaskatia.org. "We believe that new taxes, passed over the past few years, make it important for the state to fund a greater share of Alaska's destination marketing program."

According to the ATIA, the agency is requesting, among other things, that the state continue its $9 million yearly contribution from a car rental tax, which is matched with $2.7 million in private sector funds.

The ATIA is also seeking legislation that would allow cruise lines to receive a tax credit against their corporate income tax for contributions to Alaska's tourism marketing program.

The tax credit would invest revenue from cruise lines, effectively balancing the costs of Alaska's marketing program between independent and cruise visitors, the ATIA said.

The ATIA holds the fly-in at the end of March or early April each year.

The goal of the fly-in is to enable representatives of the state's tourism industry, especially small-business owners, to meet face-to-face with lawmakers.

Alaska Airlines is offering a Constituent Fare and area hotels are providing discounted rates for fly-in attendees.

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