Jackie Abrams sorts through a piled up mailing at the Carbon County Travel Bureau last Thursday morning. Mailings like this that come from leads from advertising bring a lot of people to the area to spend tourist dollars.
Top 10 markets for local tourism
It's easy to lose sight of the attractions that an area may have to people who live outside it when one lives amidst the things that might bring tourists to a place. Many who live in the Castle Valley see beauty and attractions they know to exist, but forget that others might like to see those things too.
An opinion poll in the Sun Advocate a couple of years ago revealed that many people don't think spending money on tourism promotion does much to enhance the area or the economy of the towns in Castle Valley. But information gathered from those that come to this place and spend from a day to a week to a month, proves that publicity works.
"We are always active in promoting our area to the outside world," said Kathy Smith, the director of the Carbon County Tourism Bureau. "We do it in many ways from travel shows we attend to advertisements in publications to our presense on the web."
Tourism plays a big part in the economy of the area. While many along the Wasatch Front may only consider Price a place to stop and get fuel for their trip to Moab or Lake Powell, that image is beginning to change largely because of the efforts of people who point out in various ways that Carbon and Emery Counties have a lot to offer the weekend traveler.
Measuring who passes through the area and why they came here in the first place is tough. Due to publicity of one type or another, people set the area as a destination site. Others are driving through on a free wheeling vacation where they stop when they see something they are interested in. Still others come here because they have been exposed to it at one time or another through another trip to the area, one in which they couldn't see all they wanted to see, such as a business trip or a convention they attended.
A good place to start to see who and how many people stop in the area is the log book at the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum. There the Castle Country Regional Information Center passes out information to those that come through the museum and gives pointers to the visitor who wonders what may lie beyond each hill and mesa.
"We get people from all over the world here," said Chantel Atwood the CCRIC manager. "A lot are from Utah, many are from other western states. We also get a lot from other parts of the country, but the number of foreign visitors continues to grow."
Locals enter into those numbers, but from Utah the biggest group comes from the Wasatch Front, especially this year, a year of what people are calling "staycations" based on the weak economy in most places.
But who does outside publicity pull in.
"That's hard to tell," said Atwood. "Sometimes I get to talk to people extensively and find out but often they are on their way through and just want something specific and we don't get the chance to ask."
However Atwood says for the casual drive through visitor that comes through, the billboards that are in place on Highway 6 (east and west of Price and at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon) and the one south of town bring in a lot of people.
"I just have a lot of people tell me those billboards brought them into town," she said. "Particularly the one that is lit up. It would be good if the others were lit up too."
Once they get into the museum and visit CCRIC (which is located in a booth in the middle of the museum lobby) Atwood or her staff can guide them into other adventures besides the museum. Often people take brochures and advice to heart. Many express that they had no idea the museum was even there despite passing through the area many times, and often they find they are facinated by other travel venues in the area like Nine Mile Canyon and the San Rafael Swell.
The travel bureau also works to put the area in front of faces that have never even been to Utah. Writers groups from all over the world and the country have visited and put together articles about the area. A couple of weeks ago an Irish television crew came to produce a special concerning the western United States and spent a day here.
The bureau also sends out information to those that request it.
"Right now, today, we are doing over 1,000 mailings to people who have responded to ads and articles in National Geographic Magazine, Oprah Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, Sunset Magazine and some internet requests," said Smith as she stood in front of a table loaded with envelopes that were being readied for mailing. "Some of these requests come from joint efforts with other agencies. We have sent out 5,000 packets this year."
But tourism officials agree that the biggest advertising piece that anyone can send out is the word of mouth by those that have been here to others who might like to come. Good word of mouth comes from people they encounter in the area as much as it is from the unique venues in the Castle Valley. Smith says bad service, or a negative attitude by one person a tourist runs into can cause ripples in the continuem of message passing to others. Each year the travel bureau gives a few awards to businesses that go out of their way to help tourists with information and travel questions. These awards, called the "Best of the Best Award" have been given to such businesses as JB's Restaurant of Price, Swift's Shop and Stop and Market Express, for training and encouraging their employees to help tourists.
"Actually the promotion of the area goes beyond just tourism too," said Smith. "We have actually had people who visited us because of promotion efforts and decided to move here and live here. It works at many different levels, in many different ways."