March 1, 2011

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From the Editor

Sarah Ryther Francom

March 1, 2011

Utah’s travel and tourism industry has long played a leading role in Utah’s economy, thanks to the state’s diverse landscape—if you’re into the outdoors, Utah’s got it. And though the state’s liquor laws and other quirks have swayed some people from traveling to the Beehive State, local travel and tourism leaders have worked to brand Utah as a top tourist destination; their diligence paid off during the 2002 Winter Olympics. But it’s been nearly 10 years since the world came to Utah. Since then, many have wondered how the state’s travel and tourism leaders could keep the momentum going after the Olympic peak. In this issue of Utah Business, we hear from a collection of the state’s travel and tourism leaders who discuss the industry’s issues, trends and successes. You can read an edited transcript of their discussion beginning on page 85. From their discussion, it’s evident that the industry hasn’t lost steam since the Olympics—and the world has noticed. As Leigh von der Esch, director of the Utah Office of Tourism, says, there’s been a recent “buzz” about Utah being the nation’s premier destination to visit. The state has garnered national attention ranging from being named the “hottest new luxury destination” by Luxury Travel magazine to an array of positive articles, such as Slate magazine’s “Utah: Why would anyone vacation anywhere else.” Utah was also featured in a 53-page spread in Delta Airline’s in-flight magazine. The attention isn’t undeserved; Utah’s travel and tourism industry has grown into its own since the Olympics. We’re now home to more than The Greatest Snow on Earth. For example, Utah’s meetings and conventions sector has been an economic boon for the state. In February the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market was attended by nearly 22,000 people—a record-breaking attendance for the convention. The direct economic impact from the four-day event alone amounted to approximately $16.6 million, according to the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Utah also recently hosted the Meeting Professionals International convention—a convention that gathered the world’s top meeting and convention planners right here in the state. Talk about a win for the industry and Utah. The state’s air travel options have also greatly expanded in recent months with the opening of the highly anticipated St. George Airport. Delta and United now connect regularly at the airport, and United offers nonstop service to Los Angeles. At Salt Lake International Airport, Delta’s nonstop flight to Paris has been wildly successful and the airline plans to restore its nonstop to Tokyo later this year. And in Provo, Frontier Airlines is preparing to launch daily commercial service to Denver. Utah has also seen an influx of luxury hotels and resorts moving to the state. We’re now home to Amangiri, Montage Deer Valley and Waldorf Astoria at The Canyons, among others. Utah’s travel and tourism industry has accomplished much for the state. The industry not only attracts tourists who spend money on lodging, dining and activities, but also plays a role in attracting out-of-state businesses to open up shop in the Beehive State. How has the industry been able to accomplish so much at a time when many individuals and businesses are postponing travel? Yes, Utah has a one-of-a-kind landscape. Yes, we have smart, impactful branding campaigns (Life Elevated has been tremendously successful since launched in 2006). But what I believe makes this industry stand out is the unique ability of its leaders to work together. Though many are direct competitors, they realize that as Utah’s travel and tourism industry gets stronger, so do their individual organizations. Their vision is long term; they’re working to grow the state’s travel and tourism pie, not take pieces from each other. Their collaboration is working for Utah and should be applauded. From the Editor Sarah Ryther Francom
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