March 13, 2013

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Travel & Tourism

March 13, 2013

LINEBAUGH: The greatest thing people around this table can do is get Utahns to enjoy Utah. One of the greatest programs out there is Ski Utah’s program, the fifth- and sixth-grade passport. I have three sons. We have done it. Love it. I wish I could go out full-time and represent that program, because it’s so great to get locals skiing.

RAFFERTY: A big part of the reason people move here is for the outdoor activities. And we are going to see that number creep up and up. The resorts do a really good job of creating opportunities, especially for kids, to be able to ski. January being “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month,” there were deals for less than $40 where you can have a lesson, your ski rental and your lift ticket.

RIDDLE: Let’s not forget during the winter months there are other options like horseback riding on Antelope Island or hiking and biking. There are a lot of other opportunities, especially throughout the southern part of our state where they are not necessarily skiing right now.

If we were meeting on a beautiful day in June or July and it was warm and green outside, we would all be thinking about swinging a club and going golfing. We overlook our great golfing product here in the state. Being part of Play Golf Utah, Utah Golf, there’s a lot of discussion for the future and getting more recognition for the state. Within our county alone, we have 10 public golf courses and they are beautiful, accessible, affordable.

BECK: Sometimes we don’t want to really admit this, but one of the reasons that the ski industry does have the prominence that it has is it is a world-class experience. The experience at Snowbird and Alta and Park City is on par with any other experience in the world, so it holds up as a destination product for visitors to come here.

I don’t think our public golf courses deserve that reputation because they are not destination golf courses. They are not built that way, they are not managed that way. They don’t have clubhouses and bars. Those are things that destination golfers want. If you go to Robert Trent Jones golf trail in Alabama, there are 11 courses along this area, and every one of them has a clubhouse that looks like this boardroom. They are built for destination visitors.

One of the things that is an incredible benefit to those who live here is we build a lot of things for locals, a lot of parks and things that are integral to our life experience. But we have to be cautious that when we talk about destination travel and destination product, it’s got to be on par with what people experience when they travel.

As we strive to become more important and relevant, we need to realize there’s still some big hurdles with people travelling to Utah. There are still big things that they expect when they travel that they can’t get here. We need to push that envelope. We need to be on the front end of that, working with our politicians and with our local communities to say, “You’re welcome here.” But we have to recognize that when you invite someone over, they are not going to follow your rules all the time. That’s a real important part of our development as a destination.

ANDERSON: We are looking forward to the upcoming legislative session, and as a part of that we believe that there will be several attempts to modify Utah’s liquor legislation. The industry has been working with Senator Valentine to slowly, carefully, respectfully change our liquor laws to reflect a more positive approach towards hospitality for our visitors who want to indulge in alcoholic beverages.

BECK: I don’t think anyone around this table wants to, on any level, move our state to a Las Vegas or New Orleans type of experience. That’s just not what we are about. But the experience in restaurants, the experience in bars—things that are very normal outside of our community are things that we really need to look at if we really want to grow this industry in the way that it can, and the way that it could benefit our state immensely from an economics perspective.

What does the coming year bring?

ANDERSON: Hopefully we will be at $11 or $12 million to continue to tell the story of Utah tourism via the Tourism Marketing Performance Fund and the appropriation from the legislature. But I need to point out that our legislation is sunsetting and the industry will have an opportunity, over the entire year of 2013, to pull together and have meaningful dialogue with legislators. How do we want to proceed with funding and the advertising program for the state?

BECK: Here’s the two biggest trends in travel (holding up iPhone and iPad). It’s the ability to search and research product, and the ability to navigate when you are at your destination. We have a product that is incredibly visual—and we have a product that is sometimes incredibly difficult to navigate. If we can, as an industry, look at those two tools—where I can navigate and find where I want to go—we have so much opportunity here as a tourism industry to capture the movement. This is a huge trend, and we need to be able to leverage it to the Nth degree.

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