SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – In an effort to close the budget gap, Governor Charlie Baker has proposed cuts to tourism and travel funding in the 2016 state budget.
Living in Western Massachusetts, we might take for granted its natural beauty and landmarks that attract so many tourists each year. The Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau markets our region to other parts of the country, especially Connecticut, Boston and metro New York.
“We never take for granted that visitors come here by accident. We have to tell them what’s here and that’s our job. We tell them what we offer in terms of attractions, hotels, restaurants, etcetra,” Mary Kay Wydra, President of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, told 22News.
However, that job could soon get more difficult. The Baker Administration’s proposed state budget for 2016, cuts funding for the Office of Travel and Tourism by about 8 million dollars. Greater Springfield usually gets about 4 percent of that money in the form of grants.
Wydra said tourism has a ripple effect. When people come here, they’re not just spending at venues and attractions. They’re also spending taxes to Massachusetts and that money can be used to fund other state programs.
A cut in state money could also impact venues. “Bringing people to the region for one event will consequently bring them back to the region for another event…Folks come up from Boston, New York City, we’re the crossroads of New England as they say and a lot of overnights are generated,” said Greg Chiecko, Director of Sales for the Eastern States Exposition.
Representatives from the state’s 16 regional tourism councils are lobbying state lawmakers to keep this funding, as an investment they say, in the Commonwealth.