Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tourism demoted?

    Idaho Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer has some explaining to do, and he should do it fast.
    Late last week, Sayer laid off the chief of the Division of Tourism as well as the chief of the division of International Business in what was called department “restructuring.”
    Sayer opted for this instead of a smooth transition that could have retained the expertise of veteran chiefs and reassured businesses for whom the news was a shock because the division’s activities are critical to them.
    Instead, what businesses got was a daylight axing that no one saw coming.
    The new structure demotes tourism from one of three major divisions in the department to one of four focus areas in a new division called Business Creation. The other areas are sales and marketing, business attraction and national sales.
    It’s a long fall to go from being the Division of Tourism, with its specially earmarked support from the state’s 2 percent lodging tax, to being lumped into Business Creation.
    The shift raises the question: Do Sayer and his boss, Gov. Butch Otter, value tourism, the state’s third largest industry? Or do they view it as a footnote unworthy of the regard accorded other industries?
    Sayer needs to explain how he will keep the lodging tax from being siphoned off by this murky and now leaderless new division.
    He needs to explain what the Idaho Travel Council will oversee now that the Division of Tourism is no more. The ITC, which meets this week, should demand that Sayer and the governor protect the tourism tax for tourism.

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