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Tourism stayed strong in 2009, DeLay says

Posted by Moab Premier Properties on March 7, 2010
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Transient room taxes collected in 2009 “stayed flat,” compared to the 2008 revenues collected by the county, Moab Area Travel Council Director Marian DeLay said Tuesday.

“That is a good thing,” DeLay said, given the financial crisis in the U.S. and many other countries worldwide.

TRT tax revenues do not provide a clear picture of visitation to the area because the taxes are based on room rates, which often fluctuate from year to year. But DeLay did present other figures to bolster her position that the tourism business in Moab and Grand County has remained strong.

Visitation at Arches National Park rose by 7.3 percent in 2009 compared with 2008. That measurement is traditionally used as an indicator of the area’s popularity because it can be used as a comparison with other national park gateways, DeLay said.

By comparison, visitation to Capital Reef National Park rose two percent, while Zion National Park visitation rose by only 1.7 percent.

“We’re looking at a million visitors [in 2010],” DeLay said after noting that Arches recorded 996,312 visits last year.

The travel council’s website, discovermoab.com, received 26 million hits, up 24.5 percent from 2008, DeLay said. More than 500,000 web visitors clicked through to view additional information about local businesses, she said.

Visitors to the travel council website downloaded about 154,000 files, with Fisher Towers being the most popular download, followed by region and Arches maps, the site’s hiking brochure, and four-wheel drive brochure, DeLay said.

Based on surveys that she said indicate the average visitor spends 2.3 nights and $120 per day in the area, DeLay said that a million visitors means there is a $199 dollar return for every dollar spent by the travel council for advertising and promotion.

A second grant from the Utah Office of Tourism to appeal to Colorado residents is paying off, according to DeLay, because money spent there has resulted in relationships leading to free commercials on cable TV.

The travel council has placed advertisements at movie theaters in Salt Lake City and Denver featuring Moab highlighting free passes to Dead Horse State Park, DeLay said.

This year, DeLay is serving as president of the Utah Tourism Industry Coalition, which she described as a lobby organization that, for two years in a row, has stopped attempts in the Utah Legislature to kill a 1 percent restaurant tax created 17 years ago by the Legislature’s passage of the Tourism, Recreation, Cultural, Convention, and Airport Facilities Tax Act.

DeLay also discussed the travel council’s work at travel and trade shows, and numerous magazine articles that have been written recently about the area. This year the travel council has awarded $70,000 to 12 local event organizers, an increase of $13,000 in funding over 2009, she said.