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Tough economy forces states to rethink tourism funding

Passengers view the skyline of Seattle as they arrive from Bainbridge Island on a Washington State Ferry.

JEREMY HOBSON: Today, Washington State will cut costs by closing its official tourism agency. That'll make it the only state in the nation to abandon all funding for self-promotion. It comes at a time when tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world.

Vanessa Romo of KPLU has the details.


VANESSA ROMO: For years, Washington has linked the image of playful Orca whales flopping around the Puget Sound with the perfect family summer vacation.

Marsha Massey is Executive Director of Washington's State Tourism Office -- at least until the end of the day.

MARSHA MASSEY: Unfortunately, when the legislators are having to make really difficult decisions around things like education and social services, everything was on the table. And tourism was one of those things that was on the table.

Across the country about half the states are cutting their tourism budgets. But other states are investing millions more into luring new customers.

AL WHITE: I hate to say this but I think it's an opportunity for us in Colorado to pick up market share. If you don't tell your story people won't show up.

That's Al White of Colorado's tourism office. He says back in 1993 the state pulled its marketing dollars with disastrous results.

WHITE: Our share of the tourism industry shrunk by a third in four years after not spending anything to market ourselves.

In Seattle, I'm Vanessa Romo for Marketplace.

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