Travel plays an essential role in our community

Sponsored: Salt Lake County’s annual $4.62 billion visitor economy subsidizes resident tax burdens, and creates and supports more than 48,000 jobs

(Visit Salt Lake, sponsored) The downtown Salt Lake skyline reflects the growth of meetings, conventions, and the vibrant visitor economy.

The travel industry has a profound national economic impact, generating $2.6 trillion in economic impact and supporting a total of 15 million American jobs. This week marks the 40th anniversary of National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) to celebrate travel’s essential role in stimulating economic growth, cultivating vibrant communities, creating quality job opportunities, inspiring new businesses, and elevating the quality of life for Americans every day.

Salt Lake County’s hospitality industry plays an equally active role in the stewardship of our vibrant visitor economy. A great example of this economic power was the record-setting NBA All-Star Weekend that created an estimated economic impact of $288 million and welcomed more than 100,000 guests to Salt Lake. The county’s annual $4.62 billion visitor economy represents 46 percent of the State’s $10.1 billion. This contributes to the county tax base, subsidizes resident tax burdens, and creates or supports more than 48,000 jobs in the county.

Visit Salt Lake (VSL), in partnership with Salt Lake County, improves the area economy by attracting and providing support to conventions, leisure travelers, sports events and visitors. VSL just had our best booking year ever with 198 meetings, conventions, and sports events booked in 2022, representing 888,973 room nights.

In the past few months, VSL has driven strategic new initiatives to continue the momentum. We welcomed more than 1,000 new hotel rooms to Salt Lake’s downtown convention district, expanded our Sports Salt Lake division and applauded the return of Outdoor Retailer. And along with Salt Lake County and other partners, we created the Cottonwood Connect Ski Shuttle service.

It’s been hard to miss the excitement of the return of the Outdoor Retailer shows, now contracted for five years through 2027 for three shows a year. And while the return supports Salt Lake County’s and the state’s bottom line, it is more important to local restaurants, hotels, and small businesses. Over the course of its 20 years in Salt Lake, Outdoor Retailer generated more than $565 million in direct delegate spending, equating to roughly $45 million each year.

VSL expanded our sports sales and marketing division, Sports Salt Lake, to focus on the precipitous growth of this multi-billion segment of the nation’s visitor economy and a growing portion of Salt Lake’s visitor economy. In 2022 Sports Salt Lake booked events that are projected to attract 257,000-plus attendees, with a collective direct spend of more than $133 million. Notable recent projects include attracting major sporting events: Rock ‘N’ Roll Running Series®, USA Volleyball and serving as serving the main point of contact for executing the enormously successful NBA All-Star Weekend 2023.

This winter, in response to Utah Transit Authority’s reduction in ski bus service and pleas from ski resorts and impacted hotels, VSL and Salt Lake County created the ‘Cottonwood Connect’ ski shuttle service. The goal was to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and enhance access for residents and visitors for the 2023 ski season. This public-private partnership was funded in part by Salt Lake County, Visit Salt Lake, Utah Transit Authority, Alta Ski Area, Snowbird, Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton Resort. It’s hopeful this pilot program will give municipalities and transportation providers the tools to expand micro-transit solutions to help alleviate congestion in the Cottonwood Canyons in the future.

Salt Lake County’s travel industry is a powerful economic engine, supporting jobs and driving local economies in every neighborhood in the county. Our visitor economy represents the eighth largest industry in the state. We’re continuing to move forward with robust strategies, aiming to book more than 900,000 room nights this year which will create direct visitor spending of more than $404 million.

Travel powers a strong economy, creates jobs and strengthens our community’s culture and identity. This National Travel and Tourism Week, we are proud to celebrate all that travel does for our community now and in the future.