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2020 brought 30% less in Utah tourism dollars, but 2021 is looking up

Dec 17, 2021, 10:23 AM
Utah tourism 2020...
Photo Credit: Utah Office of tourism, as part of their Red Emerald Strategy plan

SALT LAKE CITY — Visitor spending in Utah decreased nearly 30% in 2020 according to the annual travel and tourism report created by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute (the Institute) at the University of Utah.

In 2020, the Institute said that Utah tourism equaled $7.07 billion, a decline that directly impacted tourism jobs, wages, and tax revenue.

“Utah experienced record visitor spending in every year from 2009 to 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic set annual visitor spending back 10 years and caused a statewide loss of 18,800 tourism-related jobs and millions in tax revenue,” said Jennifer Leaver, senior tourism analyst at the Gardner Institute and lead author of the report. 

However, the Institute said their report also shows a healthy recovery during the first part of 2021, especially in Utah’s rural regions. 

“Still, Utah’s tourism industry fared better compared with the region and U.S. as a whole, attributable to our wide-open spaces, numerous outdoor recreation opportunities, and effective marketing campaigns.” 

Key points from the 2020 report include: 

  • Spending: Tourists spent $7.07 billion dollars in Utah economy, which was a 29.8% decrease from the previous year 
  • Jobs: Utah’s travel and tourism industry accounted for 119,600 jobs, which was a 13.5% deccrease from the previous year 
  •  Wages: Private travel wages declined by $1.6 billion dollars, while private air transportation wages declined by 4.7% 
  • Accommodations: Statewide hotel occupancy and daily room rates declined by 26.3% and 15.9 percent 
  • Visitation: Utah’s state parks saw a healthy increase of visitors, going up 32.5%, while national parks saw a decline of 27.3%. 

And while ski resorts were still operating under pandemic conditions, the ski season set a new record for the number of skier days, drawing $5.3 million. 

“The pandemic has made our Red Emerald Strategic Plan more important than ever,” said Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism.

“Utahn’s and out-of-state visitors are passionate about our state’s wonders. We are encouraging more immersive travel off the beaten path to create a perpetual visitor economy.” 

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2020 brought 30% less in Utah tourism dollars, but 2021 is looking up