The Chamber believes tourism is a vital part of the Billings economy that directly generates $600 million each year in non-resident expenditures, and is a major employer. To create a vibrant tourism destination, the community must support its demand generators: those activities and facilities that bring guests to Billings. As a destination, there must also be adequate funding to recruit groups and individual leisure visitors through marketing and sales.
The Chamber realizes that state tourism promotion level is inadequate. The Chamber supports the state lodging tax and the positive impacts that are made in statewide, regional and local tourism marketing. To be most effective on a local and regional level, the Chamber supports substantial reform to the rules and regulations administered through the state Tourism Advisory Council. The Chamber opposes additional use of the funds for infrastructure, or any reductions to local marketing agencies such as the Chamber. The 3% general fund lodging tax should be allocated specifically to state tourism with a portion granted to regions and CVBs.
: MetraPark is a vital part of the tourism infrastructure and the Chamber believes that it is a critical time for master planning of this facility. We support a complete assessment of facility and grounds’ future use that will drive the most business to the community and the facility. We support the facility’s operation as a subsidized attraction in driving business to Billings and Yellowstone County and we support public investment to improve and maintain the facility and grounds. The Chamber encourages the County to maintain adequate reserves to pay for such capital repairs and replacements in the future.
The Chamber supports carefully considered incentives to lure conventions, groups and the film industry to the state.
The Chamber supports demand generating infrastructure and programs to bring visitors, athletes, companies and conventions to Billings while increasing our quality of life as residents. These infrastructure amenities include natural, historic and cultural amenities.
National Park Centennial Initiative
Eighty percent of our non-resident summer travelers to Montana visit Glacier and/or Yellowstone National Park on their trip to Montana. However, chronic underfunding of our national parks has led to deterioration of critical park services and infrastructure. The President, Congress and all Americans must engage in a sustained effort to fully fund and revitalize the park system by the Park Service Centennial in 2016.
Travel Promotion Act
The national travel community’s highest legislative priority is passage of the Travel Promotion Act of 2007. This act would create a non-profit Corporation for Travel Promotion as part of public-private partnership to better communicate U.S. travel policies to prospective international travelers, and also promote the U.S. as the world’s premier destination. International and specifically Canadians are an important and growing market for Montana, having a program that among other things more clearly explains new U.S. travel rules and procedures will encourage further travel to our state.
H-2B VISA (Workforce)
Business may need to rely more heavily on international workers to fill temporary positions during peak periods. The H-2B program was created to allow short-term international workers to fill these temporary jobs capping participation at 66,000. There was a temporary exemption for workers that participated in the program in the past three years but this exemption expired on September 30, 2007. The caps are being reached way in advance which underscores the need to reform the H-2B process. Employing temporary international workers is crucial in order to provide necessary services to operate numerous businesses across Montana. Without these workers, services, length of seasons and ultimately tourism revenue to the state would suffer greatly. We would like to extend the Visa’s for a greater period than 6 months and would like to see the 66,000 person cap not apply to return workers.