Gov. Baker cuts Tourism Trust Fund in half

In this file photo, sunbathers enjoy the summer sun at Lucy Vincent Beach. Extended sun exposure puts people at high risk of getting melanoma. — Martha's Vineyard Times file pho

Last week Governor Charlie Baker cleaned out the remaining $3 million in the Tourism Trust Fund, cutting in half the monies set aside for regional tourism councils and chambers of commerce to market and promote tourism and visitors to the state.

This came as a complete surprise to Nancy Gardella, the executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, who said a move like this could detrimentally impact the Island.

In a conversation with The Times on Wednesday, Ms. Gardella said the tourism fund was set up by the state legislature to protect funds used strictly to market Massachusetts as a destination, with $6 million put into the trust for the fiscal year 2017. The purpose was to protect monies from 9C cuts, which administrations use when revenue isn’t where it should be or expenditures are too high. “It is in direct opposition to the desire and intention of our state legislature,” Ms. Gardella said.

Martha’s Vineyard gets a small percentage of the trust fund, roughly $232,000 from 2014 to 2015, to use only for marketing the Island as a destination. The Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce uses it primarily to promote the shoulder seasons.

In that year, Martha’s Vineyard alone returned almost $5.5 million to the state in occupancy tax, and roughly $8.2 million to Island towns in local-option taxes, all as a result of that $230,000 in marketing. Across Massachusetts, from the $6 million investment, local tourism returned $199 million to the state.

“Massachusetts is 47th of all the states in what it invests to market itself, and yet tiny little Massachusetts is No. 7 in visitorship,” Ms. Gardella said.