SAN FRANCISCO -- Lobbying by the California travel and tourism industries saved the state's Division of Tourism from the budget ax, but only a skeleton operation remains.

California's contentious budget-wrangling left the Division of Tourism with $929,000, which, with funding from travel firms in the state, enables the office to keep seven full-time staffers and a part-time employee on payroll to help maintain operations of the state tourism Web site and toll-free numbers and fulfill requests for tourism brochures and other material.

There will have to be deep cuts in advertising, public relations and other forms of promotion, said Terri Taylor-Solorio, president of the Sacramento-based California Travel Industry Association (CalTIA).

"We're going to have to tighten our belts and be more creative," Taylor-Solorio said.

The Division of Tourism received $7.3 million annually from state coffers for the last several years.

This year, facing a budget crisis, Gov. Gray Davis proposed to do away with the division entirely. The industry ultimately convinced the legislature and the governor to save the division from extinction with the $929,000 outlay.

"It keeps the door open for the possibility of more funding next year," said Taylor-Solorio.

The funding from the state is combined with $6.8 million per year raised through the California Tourism Marketing Act, which levies assessments on travel companies in the state.

The total state tourism promotion budget was about $14 million last year. With the slash in the state contribution, the total budget for 2003-2004 is just under $8 million.

"It's a most unfortunate situation because we are in competition with other states, and this puts us at a huge disadvantage," said Taylor-Solorio.

However, dire predictions early this year that the slashed funding would lead to brochure requests unfulfilled, Web-site closure and tourism office phones disconnected will not come to pass, she said.

"The day-to-day operation will continue, but it will leave very little money for actual advertising and public relations," Taylor-Solorio said.

The Division of Tourism was part of a state agency -- the California Trade, Technology and Commerce Agency -- that was a victim of the budget ax and has closed down. As a result, the division has been shifted to the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.

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