Strengthening the economy through tourism
|The Grand Canyon of the San Rafael River.|
The peak of the tourism season may be months off, but officials from various tourism entities in Carbon and Emery counties have been busy for months planning for another record season.
"We are pulling together with a common goal to strengthen our economy and one of the vehicles we are using is tourism." says Kathy Hanna-Smith, director of the Castle Country Travel Region, as she unpacks material from one trade show and begins packing for the next one.
"While we are doing this we are enhancing our quality of life in Castle County," she added.
The Carbon County Travel Bureau reports that 2002 was a phenomenal year. It was the highest reporting of transient room collections since tracking. The travel bureau has noted increases in transient room tax over the last six years, but 2002 showed over a 15 percent increase over the previous year.
"We owe some of the increase to additional in-state and out-of-state marketing that we have been able to do due to the increased revenues over the past years," says Hanna-Smith. She also noted that they have seen an increase in the business traveler which breaks down to visitors to our region that add to the economy while doing business in our communities.
This type of business gives Castle Country an audience to market its local attractions, events, eateries and other types of businesses. It also creates return visits with families and friends.
Some of the marketing that has been placed to date for the 2003 tourism year is with Sunset Magazine that has over 4.6 million readers and is a source for great travel, garden, home, food and entertaining ideas.
"We will purchase ads in the travel directory and the great getaway sections with release dates of April and May," announced Hanna-Smith.
In addition, the bureau has purchased advertising in the Salt Lake Visitors Guide spring/summer issue. This source of promotion is placed in the Wasatch front hotel rooms and has a distribution of over one million copies.
In addition to the print advertising, they just completed five travel or trade shows for the year 2003, with another one scheduled in May.
The year started with Pomona, Calif. and on to Denver, Colo., Houston, Texas, Harrisburg, PA., Salt Lake City and will end with Grand Junction, Colo. These efforts are made possible by the State of Utah tourism regions and Castle Country Travel Region. Returns are already being tracked from this type of promotion and each day a stack of brochures and material promoting Carbon and Emery counties is mailed.
"We are involved with many facets of tourism development and promotion which is the right arm of economic development," says Hanna-Smith. Included are, the Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic Byway, the proposed Dinosaur Safari project, the Energy Loop: Huntington and Eccles National Scenic Byway, Nine Mile Canyon improvements and enhancements, community wide beautification and improvements to the entryways and throughways, information kiosks at entryways of the communities and finishing up the interpretive UDOT rest areas at Tucker, Emery and Thompson, along with the John Wesley Powell Museum.
|San Rafael Swell at dawn.|
Hanna-Smith also added that they continue to market through the weekly radio program and current event calendars are placed at tables and counter tops at most restaurants, hotels and other related industries.
The travel region also continues its relationship with the funding of the Castle Country Regional Information Center or CCRIC that houses an information specialist seven days a week during the peak seasons and six days during off season time. They also assist in local funding of events that qualify through applications taken at this office.
CCRIC is comprised of and sponsored by local restaurant tax and partnerships including BLM, Forest Service, Price City, Emery and Carbon counties, CEU and Canyonlands National Historical Association.
The agency was created by the energy and enthusiasm of these organizations and its primary goal is to promote attractions, events, and businesses of the Castle Country area and to make this a one stop shop for tourism. Chanel Atwood was hired full-time last summer to manage the agency.
"We want to be more user friendly," she says. "We also want to provide consistent hours of operations and availability to visitors and other agencies."
The Castle Country Travel Region office is located on the south end of the community next to the museum and its primary responsibility is to get the tourists here.
"We often refer then to the information center at the CEU Museum as a starting point and the facility introduces visitors to the entire tourism region.
"We have a world class museum," stated Atwood, "and once I get their attention, we find that we can often extend our visitors stays by one or two days or more."
Hanna-Smith adds that she has noticed a notable change in people's attitudes about Castle County.
"Local people are more excited and we are seeing new faces stepping up to the plate with new ideas, a lot of energy and new funding sources," she explained.
Some of the tools that are in the tourism handbag include signage, brochures, trade shows, mailings, the Internet, advertising and marketing.
"We have settled on three strong talking points that seem to be working and we plan on using them to continue branding the area. These include the San Rafael Swell, rock art and dinosaurs. These are our buzz words," she explained. At the most recently show they even had a cutout picture of large dinosaur looming over the table. From these buzz words tourists go into all of the many attractions: five state parks, five quality museums, three golf courses, two national scenic byways and several state scenic byways and back ways, Nine Mile Canyon, fishing, festivals and celebrations, trails for hiking, biking, ATV, 4X4. kayaking, rafting, cross country skiing, snowmobiling and this time of the year, ice fishing is popular.
Two factors that will probably influence vacation plans this summer are the threat of war and continuing high gas prices. Utah is conveniently located to use these to its advantage.
According to Hanna-Smith, the numbers are already down at airports. Its a fact that fewer people fly during wartime or the threat of war. But numbers are up at the Utah visitor centers. Even though war hangs over the heads of Americans, Utah remains a strong destination in the eyes of many potential vacationers in the western United States based on comments and feedback at the shows and the increasing telephone and Internet inquiries.
One of Utah's top markets is Texas and most Texans are within a couple travel days of Utah.
As brochure racks are refilled, plans continue regarding signage improvements leading into the area as well as advertising ideas. Castle County is anticipating another big year in tourism.