TRAVEL & TOURISM: Roundtable.


Every month, Utah Business partners with Holland & Hart and Big-D Construction to host roundtable events featuring industry insiders. This month we invited the top travel and tourism specialists to discuss the government shutdown, the 2030 Winter Olympic bid, and Utah's brand promise. Moderated by Jay Kinghorn, associate managing director at the Utah Office of Tourism, here are a few highlights from the event.


Vicki Varela | Director | Utah Office of Tourism

Last year, tourists spent $9.2 billion in the state, and that translated into $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenues. That's money that Utah households would've had to generate in some other way, if not for the $1.3 billion that tourism is putting on the table. The household relief of that is $1,375. Every household would have to have paid that much in additional taxes if not for tourists.

Joel Racker | Presidents CEO | Explore Utah Valley

We're seeing something similar down in Utah Valley. Our occupancy was down almost three percentage points, but we were up nine percent in rooms. So we're seeing a lot of hotel growth, and a lot of that is around the business travel side.

Greg Ross | Vice President | Hess Corporate Travel

Business travel tends to be a leading economic indicator. People tend to invest in travel [when they] are optimistic about the future, so that is a bit of an indication that things are good. We had our best year ever last year. And all indications are that we're already off to a really strong growth year this year as well.

Ryan Starks | Executive Director | Heber Valley Tourism & Economic Development

In Wasatch County, I think optimism is as high as it's ever been, and we have two specific developments which I think are telling of that level of optimism. The first is MayFlower Mountain Resort by the Excel Development Company near the Jordanelle. 388 new rooms with 100 of those being dedicated to service men and women. We also have another development in Black Rock Ridge. It'll have three ice rinks in it, with a niche specialty [to attract] the professional hockey players for training.

And what we're hearing from our industry is that they're waging on continued strength within the tourism economy, because our groups are not just coming one or two years out, but they're coming four and five years out.

Matt Wirthlin | Partner | Hollands Hart

Multi-family development is as strong as it's ever been. They can't build fast enough. The demand is much higher than the growth. So I think it's optimistic with some caution built in, knowing that things will slow down at some point.

Braden Moore | Director of Development | Big-D Construction

Here in Utah, we're fortunate to have some big, mega projects. Obviously, the Salt Lake City airport was huge for everyone in this room. The biggest problem we're having is finding people, because there are some big projects and a lot of outside capital are bringing in some mega projects into the state. So it's huge for Utah. It's huge for our employee base here, but we have a struggle in that we don't have enough people to build everything that's coming in.

Nancy Volmer | Director of Communications S Marketing | SLC International Airport

We saw 25 million plus passengers this past year, so that's a 5.6 percent growth. And...

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