Knoxville — After long winter, Iowans are likely eager to begin thinking about their spring and summer vacations. Aaron Buzza, President of the Travel Federation of Iowa, says that tourism is an important economic sector in Iowa, one that provides a great deal of return on investment.
The Travel Federation of Iowa is comprised of three regions in the state, which represent everyone involved in tourism in the state. Monthly meetings of the federation are held in Des Moines. Buzza is serving a one-year term as president.
“People want to come to Iowa,” Buzza said. “Iowa's very accessible and affordable.”
The federation is currently focused on lobbying and grassroots efforts for greater State support of the industry. Buzza indicates that the State allocated $4 million for tourism this fiscal year.
That $4 million investment has helped spur over $7.6 billion in spending by travelers in the state. The $7.6 billion is 5 percent higher than the previous year.
Tourism spending in Iowa also provides the state with $345 million in tax revenue. That money can fund a great deal of teachers, firefighters and police officers, Buzza said. He is proud of tourism's contributions to the state's economy.
“We're a good economic development partner,” Buzza said. He added that tourism “imports taxpayers,” and that the money received from travelers has an immediate impact on local economies.
While the State invested $4 million in tourism, that figure is well below the average in the Midwest. The average, according to Buzza, is $15.8 million. Illinois skews that figure, but without Illinois' heavy spending, the average is still between $10-12 million.
The federation is not only concerned about money from the Legislature, but it is also supportive of making law changes as well. The federation wants to push the official starting date for schools back, past the end of the summer travel season. Most schools get a waiver each year to start school in August. Buzza said he hopes the Legislature understands the importance of tourism in Iowa and make it a priority.