March 13, 2013

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Travel & Tourism

March 13, 2013

RAFFERTY: Chad hit it on the head. The right word there is “efficiency.” As an industry, it’s part of our charge to be forward-thinking and not just think about this season or next season, but think 20, 30, 40 years down the road and what our industry will look like.

People say, “Well, this growth is coming.” I’ve got news for you: It is here already. The growth is here. And if we don’t have an efficient means of moving people into and out of the mountains from our metro urban centers, if we don’t have an efficient way of moving people around the mountains when they are in the mountains, we are selling ourselves short down the road. And if we think it’s a problem now, what’s it going to look like in 20 years? We already have competitors who are in that boat and are seeing severe repercussions from having tough ways to get in and out of their mountains.

It is something that deserves a lot of thought. It’s not about making it bigger. It’s about being more efficient. There’s a lot of misperception that the ski industry is trying to make it a lot bigger. By making it more efficient you can make it bigger without growing as much as some people might think you would.

There’s been a lot of talk about a seven-area interconnect. Without getting too deep into some of these issues, if you were to connect seven of the ski areas in the central Wasatch, you’d have a ski industry that would encompass over 18,000 skiable acres. The amount of terrain you would have to add to make that happen is very, very small in the overall picture. But what it does is grow you from having one lift ticket and between two and three thousand skiable acres at one area, to one lift ticket potentially and 18,000 skiable acres.

I’m not talking about making the terrain that much bigger. It’s just the efficiency and the technology we have today with ticketing systems like they have at Alta. It just grows the options and the opportunities. And I think that’s a thoughtful way to do it.

What macro trends will impact our state in the next couple of years?

ANDERSON: One of the concerns we are hearing from some of our national parks and outdoor recreationists is a huge concern about the fact that kids now are less active. They are not getting out and hiking and biking and engaging really actively in the outdoors. That’s a huge concern for some of the land management agencies. The Park Service, Forest Service and the BLM are all looking at how to get children from all sorts of backgrounds much more engaged in an activity outside. That’s vital for the Utah tourism product.

So 10 years from now, when the 14-year-olds are 24 and they are graduated from college and ready to travel, they may not see Utah’s national parks as an interesting place to visit.

ANDERSON: That’s right. The sort of traditional two week, put the family in the van and run to Utah’s five national parks—they may not be as familiar with that. And like Scott said, many family vacations are based on what you did growing up. So if we have a disconnect now with young kids and they are not getting out and experiencing these fabulous outdoor opportunities, we have got work to do. We need to get them outside. We need to get them engaged and active.

BECK: I will add to the discussion that our product is not simply outdoor. One of the incredible things that has happened to our tourism community is we now have an urban experience that rivals rural experiences. That was not something that we were known for 10 years ago. Maybe even five years ago. But because of the strength of our economy, the growth we’ve had, and industries like legal and financial services that are coming to Utah, we now have an urban experience that will draw people.

We are no longer a one-trick pony. We are not just snow and red rock. That is not who we are as a state anymore. One of the unique parts about our product that is second to none is that our urban experience is really integrated into an outdoor environment. Unlike anything else.

RACKER: You mentioned the urban experience. City Creek has been incredible. But we have our little version with the outlet malls in Lehi. They have had several buses of international travelers that are stopping by. Oftentimes the bus driver has simply been given the charge that these people want to shop. So we are seeing the product improve significantly all around for that tourist experience.

WILLIAMS: We were talking about kids and the fear that they are not being as active. But on the other end of the spectrum are the Boomers and seniors who are more active and healthier than ever before, and they have money and want to travel. That’s a group we shouldn’t forget.

MARSHALL: The fastest-growing piece of our season pass sales this year was the 65 to 79 group. It’s so much fun. We are kind of riding on the coattails of that fabulous bulge of our population, and it’s going to look different in the next 10 years.

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