At a time when tourism leaders need to be extolling Arizona's virtues more than ever, the money isn't there, said Debbie Johnson, president and CEO of the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association.
The Arizona Office of Tourism's budget declined by 63 percent from fiscal year 2010 to 2011, going from $21.6 million to $8 million, said Director Sherry Henry. Other state tourism offices have not suffered the same cuts, Johnson said.
"When funding cuts happen, we can't market our state competitively," Johnson said.
In May, Gov. Jan Brewer established a task force to help Arizona's tourism industry counteract the boycott and the economic downturn. A $250,000 grant from the Arizona Department of Commerce funded the task force.
The task force spent $50,000 to fly in meeting planners and show them some of Arizona's conference destinations. Another $50,000 went to an existing marketing campaign aimed at encouraging Arizonans to travel in state.
"I think we've been able to make some pretty good headway," Henry said. "We knew we couldn't launch a major campaign."
But Johnson and Richard Vaughan, senior vice president of sales and marketing at the Metro Tucson Convention and Visitor Bureau, said the $250,000 isn't enough to accomplish much in the world of marketing and branding.
It's like getting enough money to fix one dent in a car that is nearly totaled, Johnson said.
"I'm sure there are some good things that happened with it," she said, "but it was just such a small amount of money."