Charles De Lorme, San Juan County Economic Director, was quoted as saying that he is pleased with where we stand. Transient room tax receipts are holding steady and advance hotel room sales are up 2-4 percent or “back to 2008 levels.”
Tourists are starting to spend again, DeLorme reports. Last year they were buying rubber tomahawks in Monument Valley and this year they are buying $2,000 Navajo rugs.
Tom Krantz, the regional economist for Workforce Services, reported that from 2008 to 2009, job losses in San Juan were 2.6 percent and 3.5 percent in Grand. Both are far better than the state average of 5.1 percent. Most agree it is the tourist industry that helped the jobless situation be as good as it was.
That is not to say that things are fine. Total unemployment in San Juan is presently at 12.9 percent and Grande is at 10.8 percent. The state of Utah is currently at 7.4 percent which is far below the national average of just under 10 percent.
Almost half (48.1 percent) of all households in San Juan County receive state financial assistance, with that percentage much higher on the Navajo Reservation than in the County at large. Thirty-four percent of Grand County households receive state assistance.
The future of San Juan is bright. The installation of broadband infrastructure has given San Juan emerging opportunities to attract an electronic device manufacturing plant and a call center to the area.
But tourism remains the key, according to DeLorme. Last month’s dedication of the new Four Corners Monument is expected to attract more visitors, especially when the new $1.2 million visitors center is completed.
United Airlines is working with the country to attract more visitors from Asia, and South Korea. United donated six business-class flight tickets for tour operators from the Far East to take familiarization trips through southeast Utah this fall.
DeLorme is in South Korea presently and later this month will be in Singapore, where he and Utah Office of Tourism Officials have a full round of meetings scheduled with tour operators from countries ranging from Australia to Japan.