BUSINESS + ECONOMY

Tourism in Utah means $1,800 savings per household, and it’s growing

Dec 4, 2023, 6:00 PM

Kaitlin Eskelson, president and ceo of visit salt lake , which plays a big part in utah tourism...

Kaitlin Eskelson is the president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake. (Photo Amanda Dickson/KSL Newsradio)

(Photo Amanda Dickson/KSL Newsradio)

SALT LAKE CITY — If you aren’t in the restaurant or hotel business, you may wonder what, if any, effect Utah tourism has on you. It turns out it’s a yearly savings of $1,800 per household. And that’s not all. 

“In Salt Lake County, the direct spending tourism dollars are about $4.6 billion. Then, think about the taxes that are coming into the general fund from tourism and what that saves us,” said Kaitlin Eskelson, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake.

Those benefits don’t include the number of jobs that are supported by tourism.

“There are 44,000 hospitality workers in Salt Lake County alone,” Eskelson explained.

Olympic effect on Utah tourism

With the announcement of Salt Lake City as the preferred city for the 2034 Winter Olympics, these numbers will only grow.

“It will go crazy,” Eskelson said. “We already have all these venues that are utilized. The kids who grow up here already get to have these Olympic experiences every day, which is kind of crazy. I have little kids, and there is an afterschool program that asked us, ‘Would you like to learn to ski jump? Speed skate?’ These were not my options growing up.”

Although the Olympics aren’t yet guaranteed to come back, Eskelson said that becoming the preferred city for 2034 puts us on the map.

“It says we are, as the Utah Sports Commission says, the ‘State of Sport.'”

Visit Salt Lake has a division they started in 2021 as demand increased for youth and amateur sports called Sports Salt Lake.

“Before COVID-19, it was about 10% of our booked business,” Eskelson said. “Now, it’s about 50%.”

“The magic of the games is unparalleled,” Eskelson added. “Now we can say, ‘We’ve hosted the Olympics. They’re coming back. Clearly, we can host your event and do an amazing job.'”

How Visit Salt Lake works

Visit Salt Lake books the majority of conventions at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

It has 65 total employees who market and sell Salt Lake County, with teams in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Chicago, so they are in the backyards of where event organizers live and work.

“Everything that we book is three to five to 10 years in advance,” Eskelson said. “It takes a very long time to court and book. So, some of these events, we’ve been trying for 10 years to book them. Then we book them, and they aren’t coming for another five. So it’s a very long-term commitment.”

Salt Lake’s biggest convention? FanX.

“We have a lot of events that are in the 8,000-10,000 range,” Eskelson explained. “That’s our sweet spot, when everyone can get hotel rooms. They fill up the Salt Palace nicely, and the economic impact is really great.”

How great? Eskelson said the average convention attendee brings about $971. Multiply that by 10,000 and you have $9,710,000 per convention.

“The next 10 years leading up to the Olympics will be a significant renaissance,” she said. “Salt Lake is just on fire right now. We are just getting everything. There is a brand new Hyatt, a brand new airport that continues to expand. We’re getting the Olympics, hosting the final presidential debate next year. I see this as our time.”

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Tourism in Utah means $1,800 savings per household, and it’s growing