March 13, 2013

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Travel & Tourism

March 13, 2013

I’m really optimistic about 2013. We have a strong, strong calendar. Equally as strong in terms of the convention business. And the economy continues to do well. Sitting here with this much new snow on the ground, it bodes well for us.

LINEBAUGH: What happened at Sundance last year is probably indicative of the state in general. In the first quarter last year, it was basically panic mode, with the lack of snow. We started looking at our numbers in March and we were down 50 percent compared to the prior year, and 50 percent compared to the forecasted budget. And yet the second, third and fourth quarters more than made up for the shortfall that we had in the first quarter last year.

Why was that?

LINEBAUGH: It’s a combination of things. Our group business was up. We built that new conference center at Sundance, so we have seen more groups coming. Our leisure business was up. The locals support some of the cultural events and the outdoor activities that we offer in summertime.

For us at Sundance, and I think it’s similar to all the ski resorts in Utah, we are realizing it’s not just about winter. Winter is incredibly important and we need a strong winter, but we are fortunate that the summer and fall months are certainly on the rise, as well.

RACKER: I will echo that. It’s been a different year for Utah Valley because we are definitely transitioning from more of a tourism focus, but not necessarily a tourism destination. We have Sundance and Thanksgiving Point and other great offerings down there. And a convention market with our new convention center. But a lot of cool things have happened with FrontRunner coming down there.

Contrary to what people might think, with Frontier pulling out, which they are planning on doing, that flight has been very, very successful. And now we are going to have Allegiant that will backfill that, and we are continuing to look at that. But we have had a lot of success.

Our convention center bookings have been strong. What we have found with the Siberian Husky dog show and a few of the other convention groups is that it really introduces them to the entire state. We got a letter from the Siberian Husky contact that said the people absolutely loved Utah. They came in, they stuck around for a week to 10 days after. They drove in, they went to the national parks.

So it’s not just selling the convention center or selling Provo. It’s really selling the state and what people can do pre- and post-convention, and taking advantage of those dollars that come in.

Piggybacking on what Sundance does—and they have been a great partner of ours—we have been able to use co-op monies from the state to help promote that offering. There are great things going on at Thanksgiving Point. We are a sponsor of summer theater with them, and they have had a really strong season.

Utah Valley is not probably as much of a tourism destination, but there’s a lot of travel. When you have a county of over half a million people and large universities and the industry down there, there’s a lot of travel. And our tourism tax dollars are up significantly. Things are going very, very well for us.

ANDERSON: You cannot overemphasize the strength of our tourism product, the mixture that we have here in Utah. Of course in our opinion, it’s second to absolutely no one. From winter skiing to the summer opportunities, from rural to urban, Utah is unmatched. That is absolutely one of the major reasons that we have been able to weather the economic storm. And we are one of the few economic drivers that greatly affects the bottom line in each of Utah’s 29 counties.

As our northern representative, Barbara, how are things up there?  

RIDDLE: Davis County has had great growth. Antelope Island State Park had a 2.5 percent growth last year and we are almost at that 300,000 visitation level. We are so close.

Lagoon continues to be a strong regional and statewide draw. And with Lagoon, Cherry Hill and Boondocks, we like to market ourselves as the amusement park capital of Utah. With Davis being the smallest county, we have so many types of outdoor recreational, family-fun activities.

On the meeting side of it, we did see a hit, with the reduction in military conferences and meetings, as well as government meetings.

We had a new hotel that opened up, the Best Western in the Layton area. And we have a new hotel that will be opening up in Farmington this year. That comes on the heels of a hotel that opened up in 2011, as well. So we continue to add new product.

Station Park, our big outdoor destination for shopping, dining and family entertainment, is doing very well. They have the outdoor skating rink and the choreographed fountain. It’s been a great regional draw for families.

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