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Tourist attractions ready as vacation season begins

Al the Allosaurus and his many long-dead friends are tourism magnets at the CEU Museum.

Sun Advocate reporter

With the summer season just two weeks away, the temperatures in Carbon County are rising. The hope for many in the county is that the number of tourists does the same thing.

Carbon County is trying to recover from what was considered to be a down year in 2009 and rebound with a stronger summer tourism season in 2010. In terms of money being put into the county by tourism, 2009 was one of the lowest in recent memory, said Kathy Hanna-Smith, director of tourism with the Carbon County Tourism Office.

"So far we are up in 2010 over last year (2009)," said Hanna-Smith. "Last year, in terms of tourism dollars, was one of the lowest years we've ever had."

Good, quality events that are put on locally and economic development are some of the keys that help drive tourism into the area, Hanna-Smith said. Events such as the rodeo, Gem and Mineral Show, stock car racing at Desert Thunder Raceway and other local events "are quality events that have the potential to bring people to the area," Hanna-Smith said. But the nationwide recession, that started in late 2007 and carried on through 2008, has taught the county a few valuable lessons.

"The recession has taught us how to market better within the community," said Hanna-Smith, noting more money is being spent on advertising events this year.

"The economy has taught us to be more frugal. So we learned that we all need to work together on this (tourism)."

In her travels around the county, Hanna-Smith has seen the number of cars and trucks driving through the canyon with license plates showing travelers from states as far away as Florida, Alaska and Montana. As they travel through Carbon County and Price in particular, there is the push of trying to get travelers to spend more time in the area with the "one more night" idea.

The idea looks at how much money could be made by the county if travelers stayed more than one day. When adding up a hotel room, gas, food and other expenditures, it averages out to be $120 per day, per person, Hanna-Smith said.

"People are taking trips, but they are taking shorter trips instead of longer ones," she said. "Some people are saying that they are going to learn more about their state and the areas around them which is known as staying and playing in your own backyard."

Local hotels in the area, such as the Holiday Inn, 838 Westwood Boulevard, are optimistic that the summer season will bring more tourists to the area.

"With tourism, you never really know with this area," said Dustin Wardle, director of sales and marketing with the Price Holiday Inn. "It depends on the community events that bring a lot of people to the area such as International Days, Helper Arts Festival and the Mine Rescue contest. We're optimistic about the summer season and, if necessary, we'll adjust accordingly to it."

The CEU Prehistoric Museum is preparing for the summer season with the arrival of a new museum director, Ken Carpenter, and new changes ahead, according to Christine Trease, director of public relations.

"We're optimistic about the number of visitors coming to the museum and we hope that gas prices will stay low for travelers," Trease said.

Some of the current attractions at the museum include the Goose Neck Allosaur preparation, where visitors can see jacket bones being prepared and speak one on one with a preparator. Also included is a cell phone tour where visitors can call a special number and get additional information on exhibits, live feedings of a turtle, alligator and two monitor lizards, florescence mineral display and rotating art galleries.

"There is always something new to see at the museum especially as things are being discovered," Trease said. "We have a fabulous discovery area and many things that are hands-on for the kids."

While there are a number of options for visitors to enjoy such as the CEU Prehistoric Museum, Nine Mile Canyon, state parks, golf courses, hiking, biking and riding four-wheelers, there may be one point not talked about that could attract tourists to the area.

"The open spaces, blue skies and scenery are a big selling point to the area," Hanna-Smith said. "People can go from the desert to the mountains so quickly around here. You may not see things like we have locally anywhere else."

As the summer season arrives and into the future years, Hanna-Smith hopes the same mentality of working together within the community and putting resources to good use will continue for years to come.

"We have one of the smaller tourism budgets in the state for this area. The budgets will be lean, so we will need to be very creative in how we use it. I hope we keep the same mentality going forward into the future."

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