March 1, 2012

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Article

Travel & Tourism

Utah Business Staff

March 1, 2012

MALONE: Our number one international market was Australia last year. It surpassed the UK, which had always been our number one international ski market. Australia’s great economy, a much better exchange rate for them and a new nonstop Sydney to Los Angeles on Delta—all of that had a lot to do with it.

RIDDLE: It’s one thing to get folks here, but it’s just as important to make sure their experience when they are here is the best it can be, because there are so many ways for them to share that with word-of-mouth social media.

How are we getting the marketing message out there?

BECK: For a long time, Utah was sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of travel—we didn’t get the respect. We all knew we had product that was legit. Frankly, it’s world class. Look at all the accolades we’ve earned—Deer Valley has been the number one ski resort in North America for years. We’ve always had the product. But one of the incredible assets now is social media. No longer are we relying on one or two pundits that have the voice and the power to talk about it—they will always default to those things they feel comfortable with and create excitement within their readership.

The power of social media is that one person having the wonderful experience at Antelope Island—people that come here and experience the authentic, endemic, organic portions of our community will go back and tell people about it. That word of mouth is the power of social media. No longer are we relying on one or two voices to do it. And that is one of the reasons why we’ve seen such incredible traction with the message.

JOHNSON: There is a phenomenon often referred to as clustering. People want to be part of a community that is similar to them, and because of social media it doesn’t need to be the community next to them, it just needs to be people that are similar to them and have similar interests. So with this concept, Utah is really in a great position because there is a mountain biking community, a rock climbing community, a skiing community, a community that wants independent film, etc.

Utah already had all of these things in place, but now people are able to use social media to talk to each other about the experiences they’ve had, and that is going to be a major change for the way Utah markets itself over the next several decades.

SMITH: That’s what we are seeing up north. As a smaller conference center, we rely so much on local corporate associations. But one area in which we are seeing promise is the attention we’ve received up north with the Outdoor Market—we are starting to see conferences and associations from out of state associated with that, driven by a lot of social media and media in general.

HOLLIAN: There is a barrier in some of these secondary international markets that we never recognize and talk about. We are all used to digging our passports out when we travel. Well, when you get into some of the Central and South American countries and the visa requirements coming into the U.S.—if you have never gone through the process yourself, you don’t realize how difficult it is. We have a large group now that has decided it’s just too much of a hassle to get all of their people from all of these various countries into the U.S. and into Utah.

Now, that probably doesn’t affect individual travelers, but it has a big effect when you are focusing on your marketing efforts on groups outside of our borders.

GRIFFALL: Particularly Brazil and China.

JOHNSON: That is an area that can’t be overstated. We’ve done a really good job of making travel between Europe and the United States very easy. This is undoubtedly, though, the Pacific century—travel is going to be coming from Pacific regions. It’s going to be coming from South America, from Asia and those are the areas that it’s still very difficult to travel from. China alone is estimating that they will have 100 million outbound travelers each year over the next 10 years. That is a tremendous market, and it’s very difficult for them to come to the United States.

So that is a very big issue for Utah and for the travel industry to work through the federal process in easing those restrictions so that people can travel from the regions that now have money and have a desire to travel.

What messages do we want to share with our legislators this session?

RIDDLE: Fund tourism. We cannot rest on our laurels just because we’ve seen all this great success. We’ve got to continue the fight and continue to put Utah and the Life Elevated branding out there. We cannot assume that everybody knows. When you’ve got a legislature that maybe takes tourism for granted and is not funding it to the point where it really needs to be funded, it can have a real negative effect long term.

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