San Juan County tourism numbers were up 27 percent in 2008, including a strong 31 percent increase in the fourth quarter. This is remarkable considering the general economic conditions, according to San Juan County Tourism Director Charlie DeLorme.
“The first quarter of 2009 is fairly flat, but there is no downturn,” said DeLorme. “In light of all of doom and gloom in the economy, I feel very encouraged.”
San Juan County has been partnering with the State of Utah to market the area and it appears to be working.
“We are doing something right, because many other areas are down, including Chicago, San Francisco, Orlando, New York and Las Vegas,” said DeLorme. “The fact that we are holding our own is testament of the impact of our marketing efforts”
The amount of money available for marketing has grown dramatically in recent years. A Transient Room Tax (TRT) on lodging is used for these efforts. TRT revenues have grown from $180,000 in 2006 to more than $500,000 in 2008.
DeLorme reports that there is more demand for lodging than inventory in many areas of San Juan County. All of the room blocks at Gouldings Lodge in Monument Valley are sold for the year. He adds that lodging reservations for properties in southern San Juan County are at or close to 2008 levels and said that reservations have been “a little softer” in the northern portion of the county.
Local marketing efforts have taken advantage of state funds to reach potential visitors in surrounding states and the Wasatch Front. San Juan County advertisements are broadcast on National Public Radio stations in California, Arizona and Nevada. DeLorme reports that advertising on KUER, the NPR station in Salt Lake City, has helped drive a significant increase in visitiation from the Wasatch Front. The radio advertising is both over the air and on the station’s websites. The cost is equally shared with the State of Utah.
Utah’s presence at a number of international tourism shows have had a decidedly San Juan County flavor. DeLorme and Ronnie Baird of Gouldings have assisted the state at several shows.
Direct flights to Salt Lake City from Tokyo and from Paris have increased the ability of the state to attract international visitors. DeLorme states that outreach efforts have been made to visitors from Indonesia, Malaysia, India, South Korea, Japan and Russia.
During the most recent legislative session, House Bill 347 (HB 347) and Senate Bill 187 (SB 187) were passed in order to update and normalize Utah’s alcohol laws, which for some visitors had been confusing. Officials hope that normalizing the alcoholic beverage laws will help break down notions about the difficulty in obtaining a drink and will be a boon for tourism and local businesses.
Mountains, rivers and rocky terrain makes Utah a desirable place for biking, hiking, white-water rafting, fishing and skiing. Utah’s red rock desert is a haven for the true outdoorsman. Utah’s towering red cliffs are recognized around the world as offering some the world’s best climbing.