Downtown SLC thrives even without General Conference attendees

Sep 29, 2021, 5:59 PM
downtown slc general conference temple square...
FILE: Flowers bloom near the Salt Lake Temple, which is currently under renovation. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ General Conference returns to downtown Salt Lake City this weekend, but for the fourth conference in a row, it will do so without an in-person audience. 

Business analysts say this hurts downtown economically, but the city is bringing visitors in other ways.

Downtown economy misses conference attendees, but finds other ways to grow

Officials with the Downtown Alliance say the city depends on the money that tourists bring. And, no, the conferences and conventions that downtown relies on have not come back in a significant way. 

However, Executive Director Dee Brewer says they’re noticing changes in travel trends.  He says the city has roughly 86 percent of the total number of visitors it did before the pandemic.

“While they might not be coming for conference, specifically, we believe that many of those families are still coming to Salt Lake City,” Brewer said.

Instead of seeing a steady rush of people coming from all over the world to attend the conference, Brewer says Utah receives visitors from closer by instead. Large numbers of road trippers head to Salt Lake City from nearby states like Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

“We’re seeing hotels that are typically full during the week with business travelers are actually seeing higher occupancies on the weekend for these three and four day trips to the city,” according to Brewer.

Downtown visitors appreciate SLC shopping

Brewer says these tourists frequently use these trips to do some early Christmas shopping.

“City Creek Center has rebounded well.  Their sales are back to close to 2019 levels,” he said.

Brewer has another reason to be optimistic about the future of downtown Salt Lake City.  He says the conventions will return to normal, one day.  However, they’re already seeing a huge boost in the number of people moving into the city.  That’s going to diversify the city’s economy.

“We expect the resident population in the central business district to double in the next three years,” he said.

Bonneville International Corporation, the company that owns KSL NewsRadio, is a subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Downtown SLC thrives even without General Conference attendees