A state advisory panel on tourism is lacking appointments from the governor almost a year after the law that created it took effect.
The law instructs Gov. John Kasich to appoint nine members to the Tourism-Ohio Advisory Board by late November of last year.
The panel of tourism- reliant members will help the state’s development department and its tourism office market Ohio.
The vacancies on the panel were among the issues brought before an Ohio House committee that is reviewing the state’s new tourism-marketing program, called Tourism-Ohio.
“Witnesses from numerous trade associations and businesses stressed the importance of having a fully functioning TourismOhio Advisory Board in order to provide guidance to and support the efforts of the Office of TourismOhio,” said state Rep. Mike Dovilla, the chairman of the House Committee on Policy and Legislative Oversight.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said the governor asked the state’s development director in July to help with the appointments, and he’s confident the slots will be filled soon.
“As always with these board picks, it’s far more important to find the right pick than to shoehorn warm bodies into there for the sake of checking a box,” Nichols said.
The governor’s appointees must come from a variety of tourism-related fields, including convention and visitors’ bureaus, special events and festivals, the lodging and restaurant industries, and the state’s attractions.
The head of the state’s new tourism office also gets a seat, along with the chief investment officer of the state’s private economic-development entity, JobsOhio.
David Goodman, director of the state’s Development Services Agency, told the House oversight committee last week that a number of people have expressed interest in the board seats. He said the agency is being mindful about the board’s makeup.
“Each region and a broad range of interests and experience needs to be represented on the board,” Goodman said in written testimony.
Tourism is Ohio’s fourth- largest industry, supporting 443,000 jobs and generating about $43 billion annually. Ohio saw 188 million visitors last year, an increase of 5 percent from 2011.
Most visitors lived within 300 miles of their destination.
The new law established a five-year pilot program to test funding the state’s travel and tourism marketing budget through sales-tax revenue growth experienced by travel and tourism businesses.
Goodman told the House committee that Tourism-Ohio is positioned to get $10 million from the funding formula this year, based on estimates from the state Department of Taxation. That’s the most money it can get under the law.
Having the General Assembly review changes to the cap were among other points brought before the House committee, along with creating a separate “rainy day fund” in case another economic downturn or bad weather causes a decline in tourism sales tax receipts, thus affecting TourismOhio’s funding.