Tourism conference makes big splash in eastern Utah
|Conference attendees listen to a morning session on May 18 concerning how Utah is marketed to three foreign countries, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.|
When the Utah Tourism Conference came to the College of Eastern Utah campus on May 16, the effect on the area proved to be very positive, not only in terms of the money the 250 attendees from around the state spent in the area, but also in the way they related to the community.
"It was a huge success," said Kathy Smith of the Carbon County Travel Bureau. "There have been dozens of phone calls and contacts about the area from people who were here and liked what they saw."
All during the convention, attendees could be heard raving about how great the area was and the opportunities it offered for tourism. But while they took in the sites and the offerings of the area, they were also in Price to learn about what is going on in the world of tourism and how to improve their own operations.
Attendees heard workshops that included everything from measuring how tourism affects their area to what is being done by agents who represent Utah in other parts of the world and how they get the word out about the states unique characteristics.
The conference began with tourism board meetings and with a social reception on Wednesday night at the Holiday Inn.
"The social was such a huge success we almost couldn't beleive it," said Smith. "The food and the presentation was great. People raved about it and some of them stayed there very late because they were so engaged."
On Thursday attendees got down to work with workshops and booths that lined the ballroom and the halls of the Leavitt Student Center at the college. The convention gave the college a chance to show off what they have too.
"Many of the people who came to this had never been to CEU," stated Smith. "I think some didn't realize what a great college it is. They had no idea what it offered or what kind of a place it was."
The booths higlighted various parts of the state and there were also some that included vendor booths that gave out information on tourism products and services.
"In the four years this conference has been held this was the highest attendance they have had," explained Smith. "Everything was well planned out and the courses were good. What was really great was all the neteworking that was going on."
|Governor Jon Huntsman address the Utah Tourism Conference at CEU during the closing minutes of the session.|
On Friday Utah Governor Jon Huntsman came to speak to the group at a closing luncheon. At that time he released a lot of information he had just secured about tourism in Utah.
During his address the governor reported the following increases for 2006.
Restaurant Tax revenue was $29 million, up 8.5 percent.
Car Rental Tax revenuewas $11.2 million, up 12.9 percent.
Transient Room Tax (TRT) revenue was $24.4 million, up 16.9 percent.
Municipal transient room tax revenue was $1.4 million, up 20.5 percent.
Resort Communities Tax revenue was $10.8 million, up 10 percent.
From the time Governor Huntsman took office in 2005, the Tourism Marketing and Advertising budget has grown from $900,000 to a performance-based marketing fund that will provide $11 million in advertising monies in the next fiscal year, with $2.2 million of that funding going to the Cooperative Marketing program.
Out-of-state visitor inquiries to the Utah Office of Tourism, Governor's Office of Economic Development are up dramatically since the Utah's Life Elevated brand was launched in April 2006.
The state's spring/summer advertising campaign launched in March should create almost 200 million impressions, through television, media and print. Seven weeks into the current campaign, the ads have generated a 294 percent increase in travel guide requests, a 372 percent increase in telephone calls, and a 23 percent increase in inquiries to www.utah.com.
In addition, www.utah.travel, a splash page created to assist in tracking ad effectiveness, has seen a 12,750 percent increase in unique visits.
According to the governorthe next three-to-five years will be about growth.
"We are in the hottest spot for growth in the nation. In fact we are the hottest spot," he said referrring to the fact that while states around Utah have traditionally been the highest growth states in the nation, Utah has now taken that spot over.
He also predicted more international visitors will come to Utah as the state steps up its efforts to market to key overseas countries, including the emerging markets of China and India.
The governor will lead a trade mission to India this fall that will have a tourism component.
"Utah is the quintessential Western destination," he said. "We don't go anywhere without talking about travel and tourism."
He said that people in foreign countries are interested in the western United States, and that is what they want to see when they come here.
He pointed out that strategic partnerships with other parts of the world are critical if Utah is to get it's piece of the travel pie.
Other international target markets for Utah include: Canada, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.
The governor also highlighted sports tourism and Utah's growing film industry, which included the filming of 101 commercials and 23 films this past year. The Disney blockbuster High School Musical, High School Musical II, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End are a few of the movies shot recently in Utah.
"Think about how we can make connections to film," he urged the group of tourism promoters. "We have the most remarkable lands in all of the United States" said Huntsman.
He also raised issues about the local populace in Utah as well.
"I think we need to focus on our land and quality of life," said the governor who will participate in a regional effort to improve air quality. "All I would ask is that we become known as a premiere destination. We're almost there now."
Huntsman was also very complimentary about eastern Utah.
"If this area were a stock on the stock market it would be unaffordable," he said. "This place has really rolled out the red carpet for this event."
The 4th Annual Utah Tourism Conference was sponsored by the Utah Office of Tourism and the Utah Tourism Industry Coalition.