Which counties rely the most on Utah's $8.4B tourism industry for jobs?

( Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune ) The hospitality sector employs nearly 10 percent of all workers statewide and more than 40 percent of the employees in five counties — Summit, Grand, Garfield, Daggett and Kane, according to a new report from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

Daggett and Garfield counties may be on opposite sides of the state, but they have one thing in common — more than half of their jobs (54 percent) are provided by private leisure and hospitality companies.

It’s not that much different in Grand, Kane and Summit counties, where upwards of 40 percent of all private-sector jobs are related to tourism.

Even along the Wasatch Front, the leisure and hospitality industry accounts for almost 10 percent of all jobs in Salt Lake and Utah counties, slightly more than in Davis and Weber counties.

A county-by-county breakdown of tourism’s statewide impact — based on new final figures for 2016 — has been distributed in brochure form at the Utah Tourism Conference, which wraps up a three-day run Thursday in Vernal.

Compiled by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, a subdivision of the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, the figures show that tourism was an $8.4 billion industry in Utah last year. Of that total, $721 million came from out-of-state tourists for lodging, dining, gas, transportation, recreational activities and shopping.

Taxes assessed on that spending contributed $1.23 billion to state and local governments, said study author Jennifer Leaver, who concluded “2016 was another banner year for Utah’s travel and tourism economy.”

About 85,000 people had jobs last year that were directly related to tourism, she said, a number that climbs to 144,200 when support positions are factored in. Together, those positions paid $5.6 billion in wages last year.

Leaver’s analysis also showed that while the growth rate for tourism-related jobs was comparable to the overall state employment increase, at 3.8 percent, pay is rising faster in the hospitality sector.

Wages rose 7.4 percent from 2015 to 2016 in tourism jobs, and 6 percent in other sectors.

Driving these gains were some sizable increases in the number of visitors to Utah’s natural wonders. Visitation to the state’s five national parks — Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Arches and Zion — rose 21 percent year-over-year, to 10.1 million.

National monuments had 18 percent more visitors than in 2015, Leaver added, while visitation to state parks climbed 16 percent.

The influx of visitors meant that hotels and other lodging saw their business go up by 10 percent year-over-year. Average nightly room rates in five counties — Grand, Washington, Garfield, San Juan and Wayne — went up more than 5 percent, she added.