If it seems as if you're seeing more ads in which governors and other smiling figures beckon you to visit their domains, there's a reason -- state budgets for tourism promotion are up 13 percent this fiscal year over the previous year.
So says the Travel Industry Association of America, whose annual survey of state tourism offices found that states plan to spend a record $644 million for travel and tourism development and promotion in fiscal 1999-2000.
The survey showed Hawaii is the leader in tourism office spending with a $60 million budget for 1999-2000, an increase of 3.2 percent over the year before.
Illinois ranks second in spending with a budget of $55.5 million, up 38.3 percent. Florida rounds out the top three with a budget of $54.3 million, despite a budget decrease of 0.3 percent.
Maryland ranked 22nd on the list, with a tourism office budget of $10.7 million (an increase of 4.4 percent). Elsewhere regionally, Pennsylvania weighed in at No. 4 on the list with $34.4 million budgeted -- a 52.8 percent increase. New Jersey was at $6.6 million, an increase of 9.3 percent. And Delaware clung to its traditional spot at the low end of the ladder, ranking No. 50 with $1.2 million budgeted, despite a 25.7 percent increase.
A big chunk of each state's tourism spending is allocated for advertising, but 49 states also use toll-free phone numbers to handle visitor inquiries and send out vacation packets.
States also are spending more on international promotion -- $27.6 million this year, up 13.8 percent from the previous year.
Parents flying to pick up adopted children often have to wing it -- there's a lot of uncertainty over timing, which makes booking a flight at a reasonable fare especially difficult. Last-minute bookings usually are the most expensive.
Now Northwest Airlines has announced a new "Special Delivery" adoption travel fare that is 65 percent off full coach fares and 50 percent off business-class fares. They feature open returns, require no advance purchase, carry no cancellation or change penalties, and have access to book up to the last seat in the economy cabin. The fare is valid for U.S.-originating parents traveling to adopt children from any of more than 100 international locations throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, India and the Middle East, and also as a one-way fare for the child flying home.
To qualify for the fares, parents must provide the name and phone number of their adoption agency, approval date of their Immigration and Naturalization Service I-171-H form, location where their Advanced Processing Application has been forwarded, and proof of their U.S. residency.
For more information, call 800-322-4162, visit the Northwest Web site at www.nwa.com, or contact a travel agent.