March 13, 2013

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Travel & Tourism

March 13, 2013

That same dynamic exists with the Outdoor Retailer trade shows. Black Diamond had been coming to the show for 10 or 11 years. And Black Diamond was going to move its location. They had been coming here, they understood it, they felt this was a great place and they came right in.

It even gets more basic than that. When you are looking for some place to travel, a lot of times it’s a family heritage culture. “We are a beach family. We always go to the beach.” And that’s how you decide where you are going to travel. In large measure it is where your parents took you or where your in-laws or someone has taken you.

It’s different with a meeting. When your company says, “We are going to Salt Lake for a meeting,” you don’t have a lot of decision. You come here and then people say, “Wow, this is really incredible.” And that decision-making process is very different on the conventions and meeting side. What it does is create this real organic way to build the tourism base. When people come for a meeting or convention, it really does allow them to see something in a very low-risk environment. The real big reward comes when they decide to come back.

We have taken it to the point where we now meet on a regular basis with a team of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. And we target industry clusters—like the aerospace industry—where we know there are associations that work within that space. So we will go out with Jeff Edwards and his team, and look at our target list of accounts. We team up and try to find people in the community that have some connection with these associations as a business development tool. It’s been phenomenally successful.

But we still, as a state, run into challenges with perception when it comes to attracting meetings, conventions and other types of travelers. What are some of the challenges we have?

WILLIAMS: A little different spin on it—one challenge we have had from an international standpoint is the difficulty people have getting visas in foreign countries. In Brazil you’d have to travel an extremely long distance just to go and get the visa and then you’d have to wait sometimes weeks for it to come through.

There’s still a fascination with the West, and people still want to come out and see the West. We have The Lone Ranger that was filmed partially in Utah, and that’s coming out next year. And there’s a Will Smith one coming out called After Earth. These movies go throughout the world. People love the West and we are benefiting from it, and we will continue to promote it hard.

I think we would agree that at the core, our unique attractions are the mountains and the natural amenities that we have. How are we, as a community, feeling about preserving that, yet taking advantage of it? How do we strike that balance?

MARSHALL: It’s a big question and I’d love to speak to it more on a level representing the ski areas that aren’t owned by other bigger interests. We struggle with it at Alta. While we consider ourselves a mature ski area and we’re not really moving forward with plans for a Montage-type experience, a lot of our internal conversation is really trying to keep that. Because part of the allure of what we are offering is that organic sense of a geographical place and emotional place. It’s hard to wrap your arms around it.

A lot of our staff is aging. And a lot of the younger people coming up now in the company are starting to question some of the decisions that we are continually making that are trying not to mess up too much of something that we feel has some allure—as a lot of the rural areas do, too.

But it’s obviously very healthy and very exciting for all of the conversation to be out there now, with some wonderful visions for our ski industry. So it is a balancing act.

RACKER: Sundance has been a great example of that with the addition of the Robert Redford conference center and their new lift this year. Redford has always led the charge to have that balance, to try to do it. And we are seeing the demand is there. This is the first year Sundance has added a new lift in years. They have done very well, not blowing out the mountain or anything, which goes against their core mission. But they are trying to add where they need to add so they can maximize the business, but also not spoil the experience people have when they are there.

LINEBAUGH: This new lift that we have added doesn’t open up any new terrain so it doesn’t sound very exciting. And yet it is, because it’s an efficiency factor. As business levels rise and there’s more demand for every aspect of Utah, or in this case for Sundance, what’s important is that we are developing it in a smart way that creates efficiency. But as Joel said, it’s not blowing out the uniqueness of that spot on the earth. That’s what we have tried to do at Sundance.

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