Parker Area Tourism may have to shut down if a tentative move cutting County funding to the office takes effect, according to people familiar with the office finances.
Presentations made at the public Board of Supervisors meeting Monday included Parker Area Tourism, La Paz County Economic Development Corporation (which brokered the recent Hampton Inn development deal) and Parker Area Chamber of Commerce, which are to lose some County funding as well.
The presentations – coming after a tentative budget which eliminates funding to Tourism and Economic Development, and reduces funding for the Chamber – emphasized the importance of tourism to the local economy. “Tourism is not only the most important industry we have in the county, but in the state of Arizona as well,” said Josh Savino, Tourism Co-ordinator. “Take a look at the numbers and ask yourself how much of the annually spent $19.8 billion we want in La Paz County. By eliminating funding, we’re saying ‘No thanks!'”
Supervisor King Clapperton said the Tourism office had done an excellent job of presenting the relevant statistics to the Board. “They really demonstrated their need to exist,” he said, saying the Board had received a lot of good information at the meeting.
Parker Area Tourism was started in the 1980s to promote the Parker area as competition with Lake Havasu City, Laughlin and other destinations. Although there have been other funding worries in the past, they have always been resolved, says Tourism board member Keith Learn. “The amount is so small compared with the big County departments that kept their funding or even had increases,” he said.
The news came a few days before the Tourism office attended the 2014 Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism and, along with the Chamber who organizes the event, accepted an award for the Parker Tube Float. It also came a few days after the announcement of a new hotel, dining and retail project by Economic Development. Mary Hamilton, Director of the Chamber of Commerce said she was disappointed by the news.
“Tourism is the engine of our local economy. Now is not the time to fire the sales force,” she said. “In order to effectively market this area in this day and age, we need the Tourism office to be at it on a daily basis.”
The Town of Parker restored their original funding to the Chamber and Tourism before necessary cuts a few years ago, she added. She said she hoped the County would do the same, not cut funding entirely.
Savino said the Parker area was in competition for visitors, on which its economy depends. “How much do you think Mohave County spends on marketing its area? If anything, the County should be investing more in our program, not eliminating funding.”
Tourism Board member Duce Minor said he is “concerned” about the situation. “This is a vital office in our area, because we rely so heavily on tourism,” he said.
Clapperton, one of three County Supervisors, said the Board still had decisions ahead of it. “We still have a lot to look at and consider,” he said.
The tentative La Paz County budget is adopted at $31.4 million.