March 1, 2012

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Article

Travel & Tourism

Utah Business Staff

March 1, 2012

Utah’s economy is what drives that corporate travel, and not just the corporate meetings travel but the corporate transient travel. Some of our biggest hotels in Salt Lake, their bread and butter is really in that corporate transient market—that individual businessman who has the laptop in his backpack over his shoulder and has a suitcase on wheels and was in Los Angeles two nights ago, is in Salt Lake tonight, and is going to be in Denver the next night. That market really came back, and so that level of increase that we saw year over year has us really feeling optimistic.

And if you look at our convention business as a canary in a coal mine in terms of how that business travel is going to keep going, we saw increases in virtually every one of our conventions this year. That is a real good indicator for us that people are feeling better about their jobs and they are spending that money to come and travel.

So I’m going to drop the “cautious.” We are optimistic. We are not euphorically optimistic, but we are optimistic that we have clearly hit the bottom, where in ‘10 we still were going down, wondering where the bottom of the pool was and wiggling our toes. And in ‘11, we felt the bottom and we were able to push off and come up really strong. We have every sense that 2012 is going to continue to grow, particularly in areas related to the strength of the corporate market.

Looking beyond the immediate Wasatch Front, how is the year shaping up?

MALONE: Park City had a very, very strong summer. Our summer business was up significantly. We came out of the summer thinking that we were going to knock them dead this winter, and we had a very, very strong holiday season, pretty much on par with last year. Now we’re at that critical juncture of waiting for the phones to start ringing again and looking forward to February and March. We had a strong Sundance Film Festival this year. All we need is a little bit of help from Mother Nature and we’ll be back on track, moving forward and looking at double-digit increases over last year.

TOLIVER: [Ogden/Weber] didn’t see any of those huge fluctuations in our numbers during the down years for some of the smaller destinations. We finished last year about even with 2010 as far as our TRT collections were concerned. Our tourism taxes overall were up but the business was harder to come by, where now our pipeline seems to be more full. We have a lot more on the books going into this year.

We have continued to increase every year. We never had a decrease in our tourism taxes. So we feel very fortunate. That is one of the benefits of still being an undiscovered destination as more and more people come to find us.

HOLLIAN: In 2011 we have had more incentive groups than at any time in our history, and we had more inbound incentives. We’ve had a number of visitors to the St. Regis and the Montage. The development there has really attracted companies from outside of Utah for inbound travel. We’re coming through a two- or three-year period where corporations were just deferring that incentive trip, and now it’s built up to the point where there is a good demand. Corporate America’s earnings are really quite strong, and now we’re seeing a great demand. We’re booking substantial bookings for 2012, 2013 and into 2014.

CAYFORD: We’ve been excited to see the investment in tourism infrastructure within the last year or two in Utah, with major global brands such as the St. Regis and the Waldorf Astoria and Amangiri down in Southern Utah, as well as new attractions coming online—a state-of-the-art Natural History Museum of Utah—and then, of course, the opening of City Creek. So in what some would consider a down economy, we’ve seen an increase in our infrastructure.

RACKER: We’ve seen a lot of things announced and being done in Provo with the completion of our convention center that will open in May of this year, the temple that’s going to be built in downtown Provo and Nu Skin putting in a $90 million additional building in downtown. So there’s a lot of cranes and things happening down there. The I-15 rebuild will wrap up this year at the end of the year.

One of the things that would echo what Scott said about business travel is our Frontier flight that launched last year—it’s run about an 85 percent load factor, which has got the representatives from Frontier very excited. They are willing to maybe talk about larger aircraft or adding a flight. There’s a couple of other airlines that are discussing having flights in and out of the Provo airport.

RIDDLE: We have had some great success in the Davis County area. We’ve had two hotels; one just came on in 2011, a new Home2 Suites. Of course, that changes all of our occupancies and modifies that comparison year over year. And currently we have a Best Western Plus that’s being built right across the street from the conference center as well. So we’re still attracting more growth per room.

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