Utah Tourism Rose 7.8% in 2012, Record Set
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New tourism and economic numbers released Tuesday (Sept. 17) show visitors to Utah at an all-time high.
In 2012, 23.5 million tourists from the U.S. and abroad flocked to Utah, a 6.4% increase from 2011.
The amount of money travelers spent in the Beehive State saw even a larger year-over-year increase in 2012, up 7.8% to $7.4 billion.
Visitors to the state contributed $960 million in state and local taxes last year, Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governors Office of Economic Development or GOED, stated in a press release.
Utah is increasingly getting international attention as a must-visit destination, tourism officials say, mostly due to the state's 14 world-class ski resorts and five national parks.
There's basically something for everyone here, said Joyce Kelly, international marketing director with the St. George Area Convention and Tourism Office. Each one of our national parks is different, they're very diverse, they're beautiful and everyone wants to see them.
International travelers are especially attracted to Utah's Zion National Park, Kelly says, adding that not only are more visitors coming, but they're staying longer, too.
Zion is the most visited national park in the state of Utah with 3 million visitors each year, Kelly said. There's nothing like hiking through the narrows on the Virgin River in the entire world.
The influx in visitors also created more jobs in 2012, with 127,781 Utahans employed in tourism-related industries, up 3% from the previous year.
The growth of Utah's tourism industry over the past decade has improved rural economies, stimulated entrepreneurship and small business development, in turn, strengthening our rural communities, Governor Gary Herbert said in the press release.
In many of Utah's rural counties, the tourism industry employs a significant portion of the workforce, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. In Garfield and Summit counties, for example, nearly 40% of jobs are tied to tourism.
"It's a lifesaver", said Workforce Services regional economist Lecia Langston of the tourism jobs. "In our smaller counties it's running sometimes between 30% and 40%, and obviously very, very important to those smaller economies."
Utah has six counties where tourism employs more than one quarter of the workforce, according to the Department of Workforce Services. In additional to Garfield and Summit, the others are Grand, Kane, Wayne and Daggett counties.
"They buy our gasoline, they buy our products, they're shopping in our stores, Kelly said of the states visitors. Its a great, huge economic impact," Langston said.