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Eight years after hosting Olympics, Salt Lake City and other Utah cities find fruitful legacy

Published: 01/30/2010
The Selective Echo -- Although it has been eight years since Salt Lake City dispensed itself well as the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the city's travel and tourism portfolio continues to benefit handsomely from the highly valued visibility of this global event as evidenced in previous Selective Echo posts.

"We have an opportunity every time the Winter Olympics comes around to be reminded of the impact on our community. There is no better stage than the Games themselves to remind the world what they discovered about Salt Lake when we were the host city," says Scott Beck, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau (SLCVB). "Our brand as a legitimate world-class convention destination was born out of the Olympic experience, and our brand as a destination for world-class winter recreation was solidified at the same time."

And, Utah's industry will be well represented at the Games which begin Feb. 12 in Vancouver. The visit is hardly trivial. The group's branding message remains simple yet definitely resilient. Each of the three cities (Salt Lake City, Park City, Ogden) has greatly benefited from hosting the Olympics, as shown in these three lasting legacies: growth in Utah's tourism and convention industry; numerous world-class athletes now calling Utah home due to the state's incredible sports infrastructure and, perhaps the most important legacy, the tremendous economic growth and prosperity enjoyed by the three destinations.

Recognized as one of the state's eight key economic clusters, outdoor tourism and recreation's economic development has seen many outdoor recreation companies relocate or expand operations in Utah, including Rossignol, Descente, Amer Sports, (parent company of Salomon, Atomic, Suunto).

"The 2002 Winter Olympics helped establish Snowbasin and the Ogden area as a prominent winter destination. That recognition has lead to an influx of visitors and winter sport enthusiasts eager to experience and take advantage of our area's offerings," explains Sara Toliver, president/CEO of the Ogden/Weber Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Equally important is the impact on our economic development. After discovering Ogden, many outdoor recreation-based businesses have relocated to the area as a result of our easy access to recreation and our quality of life."

The overall numbers bear this impact out:

The legacy for Utah's tourism and convention industry:

VISITORS - 20.4 million visitors in 2008 vs. 17 million in 2000(

UTAH SKIER DAYS - 4.259 million in 2007-08 vs. 2.984 million in 2001-02

INDUSTRY - $7.1 billion industry (2008) as compared to $4.25 billion prior to hosting the Olympics (2000)

JOBS - Responsible for 113,030 jobs (2008) vs. 100,674 in 2002.

"We have watched our hospitality product and its utilization grow significantly since hosting the Games," says Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber and Visitors Bureau. "The popularity of Park City as a vacation destination has soared with the instant credibility afforded the community by hosting 26 medal events and being deemed ‘The Alpine Heart of 2002.'"

Malone adds, "With the community having embraced Alpine, Freestyle and Snowboarding World Cup events over the many years leading up to the Olympics, this has produced a pipeline of young athletes aspiring to become Olympians, many of whom will be competing in the Vancouver Games."