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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Visitors to Zion National Park take in the sights. Tourism is a huge economic boon to the Utah economy, a new report found.
Report shows importance of tourism to Utah
Record » Tourists spent $7.4 billion in 2012 in state with “something for everyone.”
First Published Mar 20 2014 07:11 am • Last Updated Mar 20 2014 04:35 pm

A new report from the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research shows that tourism had the strongest economic performance of any Utah industry between 2008 and 2012.

Tourists spent a record $7.4 billion in Utah in 2012, the period covered by the latest report which provided a comprehensive overview of tourism, travel and recreation-related jobs, wages, sales and tax revenue, visitation and industry performance.

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"There have been steady increases in visitor spending and tourism-related jobs, wages, sales and tax revenue for the past three years," said BEBR research analyst Jennifer Leaver. "Utah’s national parks and places have reported annual growth in visitation since 2007, despite the most recent recession."

Leaver also examined preliminary 2013 numbers. She anticipates moderate growth in sales and tax revenues, modest growth in the leisure and hospitality job sector, and slight decreases in national parks and places visitation, due in large part to the 2013 government shutdown during southern Utah’s tourism season.

"Utah has so much to offer," said Natalie Gochnour, an associate dean at the David Eccles School of Business in a news release. "Visitors are drawn to our ski resorts, mountains and parks, as well as to our cultural and historical assets. Utah really has something for everyone."

In 2012, the report revealed that Utah recorded 6.6 million national park visits, 5.1-million national monument visits, 5.1 million state park visits and 4 million skier days. That made it the strongest industry between 2008 and 2012, followed by the food service and accommodations industries.

"Utah’s tourism, travel and recreation industry is an integral part of Utah’s economy," said Leaver. "It generates jobs and wages, diversifies by directly and indirectly supporting a variety of businesses, and contributes to Utah’s overall tax base."

Other report highlights included:

• Utah nonresident visitor spending of $5.3 billion benefitted the Utah economy in a similar way to merchandise exports. If tourism were an export, it would be the state’s second-largest export behind primary metals and ahead of computers and electronics.

• Utah’s tourism industry supported 129,088 jobs in 2012, representing approximately one in 10 jobs in the state’s economy.

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• Utah ranks higher than California, Texas, Illinois and New York in travel-generated employment share.

• Between 2003 and 2012, total direct leisure and hospitality jobs and wages increased 19 percent and 28 percent respectively.

• More than 40 percent of total private direct jobs in Daggett, Garfield, Grand, Kane, Summit and Wayne counties are in the leisure and hospitality sector.

• Summit, Washington, Garfield and Utah counties all experienced over 25 percent growth in leisure and hospitality jobs from 2003 to 2012.

• In calendar year 2012, taxable sales in the leisure and hospitality sector totaled $5.3 billion, a 6 percent increase from 2011.

• Tourism-related tax revenue grew 42 percent from 2003 to 2012, with a 13 percent increase from 2011 to 2012.

The BEBR was established in 1932. Its mission is to conduct and support research related to the structure of the Utah economy, its resources and its potential for expansion.


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