By Mike Morrell, The Salt Lake Tribune — Since Wednesday was National Travel Rally Day, some leaders of Utah's tourism industry got together to celebrate the importance of their businesses to the state.
They also wanted to emphasis that their public/private partnership has been a key to travel and tourism activities contributing $8 billion annually to Utah's economy, supporting 137,200 jobs and generating $1.09 billion in state and local taxes.
"Our success in promoting Utah's $1.3 billion winter-sports industry," said Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty, "stems from our ability to collaborate — between winter and summer, red rock to snow-capped mountains. Utah has it all and our ability to work together to promote our state as a destination is the secret to our success."
It doesn't hurt, he added, that people can ski here in the morning and mow their lawns in the afternoon — in May.
The state's appeal to travelers has increased markedly over the past decade, said David Williams, Utah Office of Tourism associate managing director.
A survey his agency conducted in 2005 showed that many out-of-staters who had never been to Utah before didn't know much about it. But just recently, he noted, the respected travel publication Fodor's rated Utah as the top place in the world to visit.
Once people get to know Utah they love it, Williams added, contending Utah tech leaders have found that high-caliber outside workers are much more inclined to relocate here if they have visited the state before.
Visit Salt Lake officials have known that for years and are gearing up for a great chance to deliver that message to travel industry the movers-and-shakers, said Scott Beck, president/CEO of the county-supported tourism and convention bureau.
"We're bringing a high-powered group of decision makers to Salt Lake City in mid-August," he said, referring to the Aug. 13-16 annual meeting of ASAE, the association of all the individual trade and professional associations that have conventions every year.
That convention's anticipated $16 million infusion into Utah's economy this summer will be peanuts compared to the potential benefits derived from impressing these visitors with what Utah has to offer — geographically and culturally — and enticing them to bring their associations here for future meetings, Beck said.
"We consider this the Super Bowl of conventions," he said.
For Salt Lake County, which has invested tens of millions of dollars into convention facilities and tourism promotion, the success of these endeavors "gives us the chance to showcase the great quality of life our residents and workers enjoy," said Erin Litvack, the county's director of community services.
It can be easier to attract desirable companies to locate here, she suggested, when the benefits of tourism impact such a diverse workforce, from airline pilots and hotel housekeepers to people involved in building and financing tourism facilities.