Thursday, May 28, 2020

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    Governor: Rural tourism economies sending ‘mixed messages’ on COVID-19 response

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    Gov. Gary Herbert answers a question during a remote press conference about guidance for tourism economies in Utah that face economic crisis amid travel restrictions and steep declines in business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo still from video courtesy of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce

    Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday, March 24, during a press conference about the state’s plan to respond to the economic fallout of COVID-19, that he saw “mixed messages” from rural Utah on whether the areas do or do not want tourism coming into town.

    The statements came in response to a question about what guidance the economic plan, which the task force announced during the press conference, offers for tourism economies like the one in Moab.

    “We have people in some parts of rural Utah that want us to shut the state parks and the national parks,” Herbert said. “We have others who are saying, ‘We in rural Utah need to have tourism and travel, and what can we do to promote it?’”

    Herbert’s comments appear to regard the different tactics Moab and Springdale have taken in their COVID-19 response.

    After Springdale Mayor and former hotelier Stan Smith promoted travel to the town, which is adjacent to Zion National Park, many Grand County officials began sending clear signals that they did not want visitors in Moab, and the Southeast Utah Health Department closed hotels and campgrounds to visitors.

    As Moab responded by slowing tourism, Smith changed tone in comments to The Times-Independent, asking that Springdale visitors heed the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and southwest Utah’s health department, both of which had instructed to avoid discretionary travel.

    “Moab’s situation is different than Springdale’s because of the infrastructure in the different counties,” Smith said at the time. “[Moab’s] local health department would be best to guide [the city] with [its] decisions.”

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