December 1, 2011

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Con Wadsworth

Mark Tuffin



Southern Utah

Utah Business Staff

December 1, 2011

Are tourism-related businesses doing well?

WELSH: Yes, yes and yes. Red Mountain Resort doesn’t specifically rely on the Intermountain region for its clients. Our clients are coming from California, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Portland. So we are directing our advertising and marketing dollars throughout the nation and into other pockets of major cities.

TWITCHELL: We had one of our best years last year, and we are now seeing an even better year this year. A lot of it has to do with events. And in this economy, when governments are trying to tighten the budget, we really applaud local communities for continuing to hire event coordinators to go out and bring those niche events into the area. The events coordinator in Cedar City brought in or extended 40 events in the Cedar City area just in the last 18 months.

When you think about what you can do within a central location like St. George and Cedar City, people are very, very excited about what is available to them. National parks, public lands, cultural activity—all those things are lending towards people coming to Southern Utah as opposed to Disneyland or Hawaii or other locations.

I see just unlimited growth. We have exciting things coming on line that will also help us in generating more tourism. We have the Utah Shakespeare Festival, which is now going to break ground in the next year on a major theater development with retail and shops that will bring people into our area year-round.

CLOVE: Regarding our events, it’s interesting to see where people are coming from. They’re coming from Texas, they’re coming from Georgia. With our mountain bike race, we had people from all over the country. People that are buying homes in Cedar City and Iron County because of these events; they play a huge role in our economy.

WHITE: When we built the LaQuinta about four years ago, we did research about what the peak seasons were going to be, and it seemed that from mid June until the Huntsman games—basically mid September—you’re pretty much dead. Now, we have events starting mid January and building up all through August. Tuachan has played a major part in bringing people to this industry.

We have seen amazing things happen from the events. Not only are hotels saying that this has been a good year, but it’s many hotels’ best year ever.

WALTER: If there is anybody that doubts Southern Utah has been discovered, think about where the people are coming from: the marathon participants, the senior games participants, Brian Head, our Zion and Bryce visitors—which are two million and over a million, respectively—Tuachan, the Shakespearian Festival. We now have the Iron Man. We have the Parade of Homes and the art festival, which do great draws from outside the area. Our convention center is the second largest in the state.

Now we have an airport that allows somebody from New York or Chicago or wherever to get here. All of these activities draw from outside of Utah, and the more people come here and experience the quality of life.

CLOVE: We have a phenomenal travel and tourism office, and the key to this whole thing is that over the last 10 years they have built this bond with the city and with all the planners in the community, and now they work together. Their goal is to not fight about dates, they’re trying to fill every date in the year. That is huge for this community because that’s bringing these people in who have never discovered St. George. We continue to get discovered by new people every year because they are continually running these new events, but they are now scheduling together as a whole so that it benefits year around.

It’s been almost a year since the new St. George airport opened. What impact has it had on the local economy?

ANDERSON: The airport is just an incredible addition to the community. I don’t yet see there are flights from St. George to places other than Salt Lake or L.A., and as that expands it will certainly become even more useful, so you can fly directly into Denver or Dallas or places like that.

But just having the jets available encourages me. The jets have made flying just a little bit quicker—even just from Salt Lake—and it’s more convenient as long as they keep up the number of flights per day.

SNOW: As we approached the opening of the new airport, SkyWest had some reservations about whether or not we could fill the regional jets. And in my experience flying to and from Salt Lake City, normally those 50-seat jets are 80 percent or more full, oftentimes completely full, and many of those folks find the convenience of the new airport and jet service to be superior to traveling I-15.

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