On May 11 Canyonlands by Night and Day hosted the monthly meeting for the Utah Tourism Board. Members from all over the state came together to discuss trends ranging from the winter ski season to anticipating the upcoming summer months.
Topics such as the low snowpack, lack of affordable housing and infrastructure challenges were mentioned, but the overall message from the meeting was clear: Attendance and revenue in the state of Utah is on an upward trend.
The tax revenue from tourism in Moab rose from $4.4 million in 2016 to $5.2 million in 2017 and is expected to be higher in 2018.
The Moab Area Quarterly Economic Report reflects a 6.2 percent increase in the number of visitors in Arches, Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point during the first quarter of 2018, compared to the same months in 2017.
According to Moab Area Travel Council Executive Director Elaine Gizler, despite the large increases, it is unlikely Moab will soon reach maximum capacity in guest attendance. “Our visitation cannot grow dramatically because we’re not in close proximity to a major city,” Gizler said. “Salt Lake City is four hours away and Denver is seven. I see Moab growing moderately, but not with dramatic increases.”
Moab has multiple construction projects in the works in order to raise the maximum occupancy level of visitors. Many new hotels are currently under construction, along with eight casitas, a term for small houses or apartments. Six more hotels are on the docket in the coming months.
As tourism in Moab continues to grow it also creates a strain on local businesses and employees during the booming summer months. One solution Gizler proposed is for the travel council to focus on marketing Moab as a year-long destination town. The shoulder and winter seasons have drastically lower attendance numbers in comparison to the summer, which more than doubles in occupancy.
In 2017 the first quarter yielded 357,252 visitors to the parks. The second quarter of 2017, the months of May, June, July and August, brought in 1,086,984 recorded guests to the park, a 67 percent increase.
Gizler added the travel council has encouraged visitors to come in the off-season to explore recreation during the winter, such as Nordic skiing in the La Sal Mountains.
“We’re very concentrated on building a [year-round] business, because we’re not only a community that needs work all year, but it would also help spread out the condensed summer traffic.” Gizler said. “It’s possible to enjoy Moab equally in the winter, spring, summer and fall.”
To help mitigate the visitor numbers the travel council does not advertise during the late spring or summer months, only fall and winter. Gizler said, “We do not run any ads that would bring more visitors here during the summer and early spring.”