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Salt Lake conventions face an uncertain year as the pandemic continues

Local tourism leaders say the 2021 outlook for Salt Lake remains uncertain. (PHOTO credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Despite a large-scale COVID-19 vaccine rollout in progress, local tourism leaders say many conventions and conferences are opting to stay online this year.

Many conventions, conferences move to hybrid model

One example is “RootsTech Connect,” which will be entirely virtual for the first time ever.

Officials are also navigating more hybrid events, which incorporate both virtual and in-person components.

“To accommodate situations like that, Visit Salt Lake has built a media center right into the Salt Palace to accommodate what we’re calling hybrid events,” said Mark White, Senior Vice-President of Sales and Services with Visit Salt Lake.

He’s quick to point out that hybrid events can still have a major impact on the local economy.

“The Association for Talent Development in late August… we anticipate 7,000 people,” he explained.

Flipping ahead on the calendar 

The other major focus is filling the calendar for next year and beyond when traditional, in-person events are more likely to take place.

“During 2020, the height of COVID-19, our sales team still put 123 meetings and athletic events and conventions on the books to occur in years 2021 through 2029,” said White. “The dam is about to burst and we’re in a very good spot to put a lot of business on the books.”

White adds that Visit Salt Lake just had their fourth-largest booking year for future years.

Going back to last March, the total immediate loss in the economic impact of meetings and conventions to Salt Lake alone is around $357 million.