Utah sees increase in tourists; spent record $8.2 billion


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A new University of Utah analysis shows tourists spent a record $8.2 billion in Utah in 2015 and generated another $1.15 billion in local tax revenue.

Travel to Utah is growing at historic levels, and state tourism officials have said that’s expected to continue, the Deseret News reported (http://bit.ly/2pz5Wpk) Wednesday. The report by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah tracked a 12 percent growth from 2011 to 2015. According to the report, the wave of tourism has created about 142,500 jobs.

The number of travelers visiting has also seen a steady growth, according the report.

Lower gas prices and a strong economy may have brought in the foreign and domestic visitors to Utah, institute Research Analyst Jennifer Leaver said.

“Millennials as a generational group prefer to have experiences, so they are very attracted to our outdoor recreation with opportunities such as hiking, backpacking, rock climbing and skiing,” she said. “(Also) our ‘Mighty 5’ campaign that highlighted our national parks has seemed to really attract a wide variety of international and domestic visitors.”

Utah National Parks have seen a 16 percent increase in visits, Leaver said.

While the news is good, institute officials are concerned about the impact the growing tourism has on rural towns. The increased amount of visitors has put strains on local infrastructure and park amenities that need to be addressed soon, Utah Office of Tourism Managing Director Vicki Varela said.

The state has partnered with U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart to seek federal funding for Utah national parks. The hope is to find technology that will reduce wait times, improve efficiency and enhance the visitor experience, Varela said.

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