March 1, 2012

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Article

Travel & Tourism

Utah Business Staff

March 1, 2012

ANDERSON: It’s a continuing challenge for legislators to juggle all of the great demands on the state budget process. We are now into the sixth year of our funding mechanism, the Tourism Marketing Performance Fund. That legislation will sunset in 2015. Our challenge as an industry is to keep the coalition of working partners together, and that means private sector working with public sector, from restaurants to hotels to destination marketing organizations working closely with the Office of Tourism to continue to tell the story of tourism, economic development at all levels—not just the state legislature but at the county and at the city level as well.

GRIFFALL: This marketing effort is really important, but just as important as that is infrastructure. And I hate to beat a dead horse, but liquor laws do have an effect on the ability to have infrastructure that makes visitors feel welcome. I’m not going to sit here and figure out how to make a liquor law that works, but we need to have the ability for restaurants and hotels and other tourism infrastructure companies to be able to operate efficiently, to be welcoming to their visitors.

BECK: The biggest challenge we face is that we have never, as an industry, been able to come together and say this is the net sum of our impact. If I’m in the extracting industry, I can say this is the amount of coal we’ve extracted. This is the amount of money we’ve spent. This is how much steel I produced. That’s a challenge for us. We have not been able to find a way to articulate the enormity of our financial impact on the community.

The beauty about tourism in this state is twofold. One is that it is in virtually every community in the state at some level. It’s got a statewide relevance. Number two, the monies that are generated in the large areas—those areas where, just by aggregation of product, are biggest—that impact is still statewide because the biggest beneficiary of any dollar spent on travel is the state of Utah. They collect the most in taxes and those tax dollars don’t stay in the community where they are generated. They go out to the state.

Salt Lake gets 54 percent of every dollar spent on travel and tourism in Salt Lake County; the rest is spent statewide. The biggest areas for tourism send the benefit out statewide, and yet we cannot come back and say to people, this is how much money that is. We have to find a better way to aggregate it so people understand we are a huge financial contributor to this community.

CAYFORD: Our latest figure, if I may, is we’re a $6.5 billion industry; that is up from $6.2, so it is growing.

How are you measuring that when you say $6.5 billion?

CAYFORD: The number of tax codes that are tracked that are tourism related.

BECK: We have as yet been unable to articulate a reasonable overall impact for our industry.

WILLIAMS: What do you consider tourism? Certainly it’s lodging, restaurants, shopping, car rental, other transportation, other activities people do here. That is just trying to look at all those different parts and it’s just an estimated figure.

But as Scott is saying, if you look at employment, you are looking at over 120,000 jobs in the state related to tourism, and the tax revenue from that is huge. It’s over $500 million in state tax revenue, according to the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, and for local communities, it’s another $341 million. That is a huge impact on the state. And people come and spend their money and then they leave, so it’s definitely a big impact throughout the state.

WHITE: There is a synergy created between leisure travel, business travel and business relocation. We host the Outdoor Retailer convention twice a year. It brings more than 20,000 people to town and those folks, in turn, come back for leisure vacations and some of these organizations have actually relocated their businesses here. That makes it a little more difficult to talk about the impact that this industry has, but that is significant.

CAYFORD: If you could get the commerce department to recognize tourism as an export—actually, tourism is Utah’s largest export. Our official largest export is gold, but actually the tourism numbers are higher but it’s getting the industry to recognize tourism as an export.

TOLIVER: It is all completely cyclical as well where it comes around full force. Because as companies are looking to relocate their offices to an area that has good costs for doing business, there’s also a quality-of-life component for their employees, which is the same thing that attracts our visitors here.

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