Thursday, September 3, 2015 1:00 AM
By Greg Oates, Skift -- Before the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, there was a whole host of ridiculous drinking laws in the state of Utah, influenced by the Mormon Church, which is based here in the capital.
That’s (mostly) old history. Following the Games, the drinking laws have normalized for all intents and purposes, except for a continuing bit of weirdness known as the Zion Curtain. It’s a sectional wall in newer restaurants that bartenders have to hide behind to pour cocktails so they’re out of sight of children. The majority of Utah residents are naturally against the law.
With regard to the lucrative meetings and conventions market, the reputation around Utah’s drinking laws once suggested to meeting planners that the locals lived in covered wagons, and it was never 5 o’clock anywhere, ever.
Today, U.S. convention planners are aware that the legislation has changed. You don’t need to sign up for a club membership to enter an establishment selling alcohol, as was once mandatory, and you don’t need to smuggle liquor in from Nevada anymore, according to Visit Salt Lake’s fun “Drinking in Utah” page.
But for some people there’s still a certain stigma suggesting that Salt Lake isn’t all that fun. In other words, there’s nothing to do in Salt Lake.
To combat that, the convention bureau launched TheresNothingToDoInSaltLake.com last month at the annual American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) conference in Detroit, which is taking place in Salt Lake next year.
The purpose of the mobile-first, lifestyle website is to direct meeting planners and attendees to the wealth of cool bars, restaurants and attractions in Salt Lake City. The user experience starts with a choice: watch a video, go straight to the content page, or register for a contest using a convention-specific code. The latter helps Visit Salt Lake collect emails and data intelligence on the people attending business events in the city.
Following that, the main content landing page has three vertical content panels labeled: No Drinking, No Dining, No Fun, which represent the most popular bars, restaurants and attractions, respectively, in the city.
Presently, there are 73 bars, 75 restaurants and 78 attractions featured, each with website links and a handy Google Map showing the distance to Salt Palace Convention Center.
All of the photography for each entry is sourced from Instagram, which lends a hip and consistent user-generated vibe to the portal. In each set of selections for each section, the photos are not labeled so there’s a certain sense of random exploration and discovery solely driven by the visuals, which may or may not be attractive to the user, but it does tend to extend time on site.
Overall, this is a website that meeting attendees and planners should actually use because of the engaging user interface and variety of upbeat content.
“We’re talking directly to the meeting planners who have the misperception that there’s nothing to do in Salt Lake,” says Eric Thompson, VP of marketing at Visit Salt Lake. “We’re hitting this head on and saying, actually, there’s a lot of fun things to do. We’re a growing metropolitan destination, and if you haven’t been here for a long time, it’s a completely different place.”
Microsites, Mobile Sites & Social Media Hubs
For the last two years, Visit Salt Lake has developed other innovative digital tools for convention planners, such as dedicated convention microsites and social media hubs on the bureau’s website.
For example, Outdoor Retailers hosts two annual conventions in Salt Lake each year with 25-30,000 attendees. The Salt Lake bureau created this social media portal that collects all of the digital traffic related to any number of corporate and convention-specific hashtags.
Visit Salt Lake also developed a mobile site for the convention that integrates with the custom event app to show a variety of things to do during the evening or pre/post. To date, the bureau has developed about 20 mobile apps.
“More and more, meeting planners really want to have that tie-in to nightlife and things to do after hours during the convention, so we can provide that information pretty easily on the microsite, mobile site and social media hub,” explains Thompson. “It’s not necessarily groundbreaking, but this is something most convention and visitor bureaus don’t offer, especially the mobile site.”