Many U.S. states’ tourism budgets are larger than they’ve ever been, yet some major destination marketing organizations and other tourism stakeholders spent less than their original budgets to market to travelers.

Tourism budgets have grown each year since the end of the recession during the 2009 to 2010 fiscal year, and the average state tourism budget amount hit a new record high in fiscal year 2016 at about $20.1 million, according to data from the U.S. Travel Association. The average amount that states actually spent increased 8.6 percent year-over-year to $18.8 million. But the most visited states, such as California, New York and Hawaii spent less than their provisional budgets for the 2015 fiscal year.

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That’s only a blip for California. It approved an annual budget of more than $100 million in 2015 and U.S. Travel’s data show Visit California’s provisional budget for the 2016 fiscal year was $119.8 million. The $50 million-plus surge in funding is for the organization’s Dream Big Dividend Work Plan¬†that was implemented this past fiscal year, its most comprehensive marketing plan to date.

“Last year was the sixth straight year of record visitor spending for California with visitors spending $122.5 billion,” said Ryan Becker, a spokesperson for Visit California. “Marketing budgets go up and down depending on whether it’s a good or bad year for tourism and last year was a good year and our marketing plan is going according to plan.”

California replaced Florida as the most well-funded state for tourism marketing last year because of its new marketing plan. In all, U.S. state tourism bureaus and organizations spent $865.3 million during fiscal year 2015 and had a collective budget of $924.8 million during fiscal year 2016.

Several budgets weren’t stretched, however. New York State, with more than 200 million visitors each year, spent about $5 million less on tourism marketing last year even as its provisional budget increased 34 percent from fiscal year 2015 to fiscal year 2016. Visit Florida spent about $5 million more last year than it did during fiscal year 2014 but it still spent less than it’s provisional budget for fiscal 2015¬†($84.5 million).

States such as Illinois, Nevada, Michigan, and Virginia followed Florida as they also spent less than the budgets they were originally allocated. Some states typically exceed their allocated budgets and some come in under what was approved. Budgets could have been adjusted after they were initially approved or there could be a problem with tourism in particular states. Or, some states may have accomplished their marketing goals without needing their entire budgets.

What’s notable, though, is that some of the top states for tourism are spending less on marketing and the recent slump in international and domestic leisure travel across the U.S. will likely have some impact on future marketing budgets.

Top 10 States for Highest Actual Tourism Marketing Spend Amounts, Fiscal Year 2014 to Fiscal Year 2015

StateActual Spending FY 2013-2014Actual Spending FY 2014-2015% Change
California$64.4 million$60 million-6.8%
Hawaii$82 million$76.9 million-6.20%
Florida$69.4 million$74.8 million7.70%
New York$30.7 million$25 million-18.50%
Texas$43.3 million$49.4 million14%
Michigan$32.3 million$29 million-10.20%
Illinois$53.2 million$54.6 million2.60%
Virginia$18.6 million$18.8 million1%
Arizona$23.2 million$24.6 million6%
Louisiana$14.3 million$14.9 million4.10%


Top 10 States for Highest Provisional Tourism Marketing Budgets, Fiscal Year 2014 to Fiscal Year 2015

StateProvisional Budget FY 2014-2015Provisional Budget FY 2015-2016% Change
California$62.4 million$119.8 million*92%
Hawaii$82 million$93.2 million13.60%
Florida$84.5 million$82.7 million-2.10%
New York$37.2 million$50 million34%
Texas$45.9 million$46.5 million1.30%
Michigan$32.9 million$33 million0.30%
Illinois$59.7 million$30.3 million-49.20%
Virginia$20.7 million$23.5 million13.50%
Arizona$25.9 million$22.1 million-14.60%
Louisiana$13.3 million$21 million57.80%


History of Average State Tourism Budgets, 2001-2016

Fiscal YearAverage Budget
2001-2002$13.2 million
2002-2003$12 million
2003-2004$11.6 million
2004-2005$12.4 million
2005-2006$13.3 million
2006-2007$14.4 million
2007-2008$16.9 million
2008-2009$14.9 million
2009-2010$13.3 million
2010-2011$13.7 million
2011-2012$14.2 million
2012-2013$14.9 million
2013-2014$17.3 million
2014-2015$18.8 million
2015-2016 (provisional)$20.1 million


Source: U.S. Travel Association

Photo Credit: Some of the most visited U.S. states aren't spending all of their marketing budgets. Pictured is the Hollywood sign in California, the most well-funded U.S. state for tourism marketing. Al Seib / Los Angeles Times/MCT