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Tourism to Yellowstone and Glacier national parks is humming along this summer despite the pandemic, but it appears that out-of-staters are bringing more than just their money with them.

 


A Utah-based company called Domo is showing public health agencies in the Mountain West where their COVID-19 transmission risk is coming from. Among other things, the service uses cell phone location data to identify which counties and states visitors are coming from, and pairs it with data about how bad the local COVID-19 outbreak is there. Public health officials in Southwest Colorado say the tool has shown that at the moment, the most active people in the area are people normally based in Texas, followed by people usually based in Arizona. 

Photo of people walk along a street on a sunny day under a clear blue sky.
Ken Lund / Flickr Creative Commons

Park City was on track for one of it’s most successful skiing seasons last winter, but things came to a halt in March when the city was identified as a COVID-19 hotspot, according to Bill Malone, president of the Park City Chamber/Bureau. 


The first time Mark Ritchie and Leah Hardy laid eyes on their new camper, it was after they'd bought it.

"It was like, 'Oh my God, it's tiny.' Which was great," Ritchie said recently while standing outside their home in Laramie, Wyo. "It made me feel actually more confident dragging it around. Because when I see people with giant trailers, I go, 'Thank God that's not me.'"


This story is powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

On a recent rainy day in Rockville, Utah, cars roared down the highway as Dutch cyclists Marica van der Meer and Bas Baan huddled together underneath the awning of a post office, trying to fix a flat tire.

Photo of empty chair on a ski lift
Chelsea Naughton / KUER

Restaurants, bars and major ski resorts have begun to temporarily shut down across the Mountain West this week in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. But economists said it’s still too early to fully understand the breadth of how these closures will impact the region’s booming tourism economy.

Photo of runners crossing a finish line with the sign Canyonlands Half Marathon against a red rock background.
Ken Lund / CC via Flickr

Updated 2:21 p.m. MDT 3/12/2020: Governor Gary Herbert announced Thursday afternoon that the state recommends limiting mass gatherings, defined as events with over 100 people in one room or building. That recommendation is in effect beginning Monday, March 16, and continuing for at least two weeks.

Photo of people gathered in the hall of the Utah Capitol building
Jon Reed / KUER

Tourism is a big business in Utah. In 2018 alone, the industry generated $9.75 billion and brought in travelers from all over the world. That included a record number of visitors to the state’s national parks and ski resorts. 

Boots, Backpacks, Bunks - Utah Spends (Time) Outside

Oct 30, 2017
Diane Maggipinto / KUER

Utah’s national and state parks power the beehive economy.  Department of Workforce Services director Carrie Mayne points to a spike in spending on recreational vehicles, gear and services related to recreation. She says that the five national parks in Utah — Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion — along with forty-three state parks in the system are a major draw, and numbers show a bang-up year for hospitality in 2016.

Chris Pearson / Ski Utah

As the ski season approaches, Utah’s resorts are in the middle of filling thousands of seasonal jobs. Some of those workers come from overseas on visas that are under threat by the Trump administration.

Julia Ritchey, KUER

Utah’s top tourism official says at a time when the number of people visiting national parks is skyrocketing, the Trump administration and Congress should step up their funding of the National Park Service.

Tourism Spending At Record High

May 27, 2016
Brian Grimmett

A new report from the University of Utah shows that tourists spent 8 billion dollars in the state last year. 

Utah Named #1 Go To Destination For 2016

Dec 8, 2015
Brian Grimmett

Fodor’s Travel has named Utah their number one go to destination for 2016

Brian Grimmett

Instead of holding their regular interim meetings this month, state legislators hit the road to visit several sites in central and southeastern Utah. 

flickr: Aero Icarus / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Governor Gary Herbert was in the Netherlands this week to promote Utah as a vacation destination and to celebrate a newly opened nonstop flight between Amsterdam and Salt Lake City. The event is part of a trade mission to Western Europe.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

The Utah Symphony and Opera announced a promotion Monday intended to bring ski tourists to their concerts. A quartet of symphony musicians dons ski boots, puffy hoods and goggles to help make the announcement. President and CEO Melia Tourangeau says everyone’s heard about the greatest snow on earth, but they want tourists to know what else Utah has to offer.

“What people don’t often know is that in addition to being a great ski city, we also have one of the finest orchestras and opera companies in the country, ” Tourangeau says.

Tord Sollie, Flickr

As Governor Herbert declares May Utah Golf Month a new report also shows the industry has a larger than expected impact on the state’s economy.

Andrea Smardon

The Utah Symphony and Opera will be taking their show on the road this summer, pairing live classical music with Utah’s natural landscape. In a new partnership with the Office of Tourism, the Symphony announced Tuesday it will be offering free open-air concerts at Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks this August.

KUER News Pod: Thursday March 28, 2013

Mar 28, 2013

The Utah Tourism Office launches a new ad campaign, Utah gets its first non-profit health insurance cooperative, and state agencies begin creating air quality improvement plans.

Utah Launches New Tourism Campaign

Mar 27, 2013
Brian Grimmett

The Utah Office of Tourism launched a brand new regional ad campaign today to help promote the state’s five national parks.

The $3.1 million dollar campaign will include TV commercials in major western markets like Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco as well outdoor and digital advertisements. Governor Gary Herbert was on hand for the launch. He says tourism has and will continue to help Utah’s economy.

Governor, Outdoor Industry Share Vision

Jan 23, 2013
Paul McKee / Utah Governor's Office

  Utah's governor has promised to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation in a vision statement that's just been released.  The Outdoor Industry Association, which sponsors Utah's largest trade shows twice a year, complained last summer that Utah's state government wasn't taking outdoor recreation seriously enough and threatened to move unless the issue got some attention.  So Governor Gary Herbert assigned his Balanced Resources Council to sit down with industry leaders.

Office of Economic Development

The managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism, Leigh von der Esch is retiring after more the 28 years of public service. Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development says von der Esch's dedication to promoting Utah is unmatched.

"At the core of Leigh von der Esch you have a deep commitment and a deep passion for the state and for promoting the state and all of its grandeur. And all of the incredible characteristics, the diversity of the culture and of the landscape," said Eccles.