Salt Lake County Primary Driver of Utah’s Visitor Economy, Says Study
Salt Lake City—New numbers from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah illustrate just how significant Salt Lake County’s role is in terms of the state’s tourism industry.
According to the study, “Economic Impacts of Travel & Tourism in Salt Lake County,” 44 percent of the $8.4 billion spent by visitors in Utah in 2016 was directed toward goods and services in Salt Lake County. That amount—approximately $3.7 billion of visitor spending—confirms Salt Lake County’s status as a primary economic driver of Utah’s robust visitor economy.
While the greater Salt Lake population is just over one-third of Utah’s population (1.1 million), its visitor economy is responsible for more than 40 percent of the state’s total visitor-generated tax revenue, bringing in almost $500 million of state and local option taxes. This means the visitor economy in Salt Lake County saved each local household an estimated $1,285 in taxes in 2016.
“To say that we are excited about the information in this report is an understatement,” said Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake. “This report clearly shows the foundational role of the Wasatch Front in our state’s visitor economy. Considering that the Wasatch Front and Back counties of Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah and Summit collectively contributed nearly 60 percent of all counties’ transient room tax revenue collected in 2016, the new economic calculations likewise indicate their value in Utah’s statewide visitor economy.”
The release of the study comes on the heels of Visit Salt Lake’s Annual Meeting, where VSL members and key stakeholders celebrated a record year in 2017. The VSL sales team hit a new benchmark with 736,203 hotel room nights booked in 2017, a 7.5 percent increase over the previous record. That figure is made even more significant as this is the first year in 22 years without future room nights for the two Outdoor Retailer shows.
In addition, 2017 saw the Ski City Super Pass reach record skier days sold with more than 49,000 purchased, a 43 percent increase in skier days resulting in record revenue of $3.6 million, a 52 percent increase in revenue over the prior year. Hotel revenues in Salt Lake County topped $500 Million for a new record, and rental car and restaurant revenues were also at an all-time high. Visitor spending resulted in excess of $496 million in local and state taxes.
“Salt Lake County’s success in attracting tourists, convention-goers and skiers has helped boost employment across the board—from retail stores and restaurants to transportation and performing arts facilities. That adds up to a stronger and more diverse local economy and a revenue stream that we can reinvest in our community,” said Mayor Ben McAdams.
Along with Visit Salt Lake’s celebratory records and bookings, the Kem C. Gardner report further illustrates the strong economic impact of travel and tourism in Salt Lake County overall, revealing that Salt Lake County visitor spending supported more than 54,000 total travel and tourism jobs, an eight percent share of all Salt Lake County jobs and a 37 percent share of total travel and tourism jobs in Utah. Salt Lake County captures a large percent of Utah visitor airline and car rental spending along with related tax revenues thanks to the Salt Lake City International Airport. As home to the largest convention, meeting and trade show facilities in the state, Salt Lake County attracts a healthy percent of the state’s meeting and convention visitor spending as well.