Inaugural tourism conference a success
Dec 08, 2010 | 2928 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The first Tourism Conference ever held by a Utah county was a rousing success, according to participants.

Greg Westfall, the City of Monticello Assistant Manager, said the conference “afforded a great opportunity for attendees to see what the Economic Development and Visitor Services office does and where the Transient Room Tax is spent. The speakers from the Wasatch Front allowed us to learn from the experts.”

Leigh von der Esch, Executive Director of the Utah Office of Tourism (UOT) presented the keynote address on challenges and opportunities upcoming in the next visitor season.

She showed the new winter television advertising campaign, which is distributed nationally. You may see the ads if you have satellite TV, as they are not distributed within Utah due to legislative constraint on the expenditure of UOT monies.

Ms. von der Esch reported on the value of tourism to Utah residents, explaining that the industry generates $703 of tax burden relief for each home in the state. In other words, each home would pay $703 more in taxes without the revenue generated by the tourism industry.

She went on to discuss the value of partnerships in a state co-op marketing program and gave a nod to Charlie DeLorme, San Juan County Director of Economic Development and Visitor Services, for his work as a member of the state travel trade delegation.

Ms. von der Esch discussed the familiarization tour program that brings travel agents, tour operators, and press to the state and touched on Lou Hammond and Associates, the advertising firm contracted by the state to assist with domestic marketing.

Bill Haven, owner/operator of Abajo Haven in Blanding, said, “The conference was excellent and really needed here in southeast Utah. The speakers were very good and it was well done.”

Patti Denny, manager of the state Travel Trade Program, explained the international travel trade marketplace and how the state and county present a coordinated sales approach, reaching tour operators and travel agents throughout the world.

She explained the process by calling it the ‘Birth of a Tour’ and walked the group through all of the necessary pieces of putting a tour together from the initial contact, itinerary development, up to the tour group arriving in the US.

She told the group that the 2011 outlook is good, bookings are remaining stable or gaining, and new markets are being opened.

Korea and Singapore are two emerging markets which have already been approached. Attendees acquired a basic understanding of how the international travel trade market works to their benefit.

Nan Groves-Anderson, the Utah Tourism Industry Coalition Executive Director, discussed customer service. Rather than focusing on what to do when face-to-face with a customer, she discussed why good customer service is important to a business, the differences likely to be encountered with international visitors, and other customer service issues.

She also discussed upcoming legislative issues of interest to the tourist industry and encouraged attendees to engage with their representative. Groves-Anderson stressed that while customer service is always in the forefront of our minds, it never hurts to have updates and reminders from time to time.

Barbara Metz, Restaurant Manager at Gouldings Lodge, said, “My staff was very interested in the customer service discussion and is looking forward to learning more about customer service. We were all pleased that Gouldings had the opportunity to host state and county representatives of the industry.”

A presentation on Social Media by Thomas Cooke outlined the latest changes in the social media world. As we all know, the internet changes quickly and it is of value to a business to keep up. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter were among the applications discussed.

It’s a good idea for businesses to explore new applications and apply those which will enhance their business. Cindy Tumeh, owner of the Desert Rose Inn in Bluff, appreciated the “glimpse into the power of social media revealed by Thomas Cooke. Overall, the conference was well worth the time out of my busy schedule.”

Marian Delay, Executive Director of the Moab Area Travel Council, spoke about the value of partnerships in the industry, outlining a number of co-operative projects between Grand and San Juan counties.

Partnering with others increases your ability to reach customers whether it is an ad produced by an office like hers or a package developed for sale by a lodging property, a restaurant, and a tour operator working together.

But the attention was not only on tourism and taking care of folks from other areas of the country or world.

Seth Winterton, of Utah’s Own, talked about his program and the successful use of locally grown or raised products in Harmon’s grocery stores, Wasatch Front restaurants, and other venues throughout the state and country.

The program has been successful in raising sales figures for locally grown lamb, beef, cheese, and other agricultural products. The program ties in with tourism in that visitors look for local products to purchase as a memento of their visit.

Derryl Jack, Manager of Zions Bank in Monticello and a county Economic Development Advisory Council member, said, “The conference was very interesting. I was pleased that it included topics beyond tourism like the Utah’s Own program and I found the Social Media portion very informative.”

San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams closed the program with a look at the value of tourism to San Juan County. Adams talked about tourism as an export product; it is the same as if we produced a product in the county that was shipped nationally and internationally.

He said that tourism is the only industry in the county that demonstrates sustained growth. It is also San Juan County’s largest private sector industry, providing $13 million in hotel sales and 20 percent of all private sector jobs.

Tourism is responsible for about 900 hospitality industry and related jobs, many of which are not only entry level but also management positions. Adams noted that advance sales for 2011 are up by double digits, foretelling a good season next year.

Adams discussed the strong domestic radio marketing campaign, developed by the Visitor Services office, which reaches both Utah and regional markets through a $90,000 grant from the Utah Office of Tourism.

He spoke about the county office as a team member working to develop a Four Corners Region Map through National Geographic, which will carry the iconic gold box recognized world-wide as a reliable source of information and he touched on advertising programs that reach Grand Junction, Durango, and Farmington.

Adams briefed attendees on the consumer travel shows the Visitor Services office attends in Sandy, Denver, Phoenix, Boise, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland, Dallas, and Houston.

Adams ended his portion of the program by discussing the grant provided to area communities by the county Economic Development and Visitor Services office. In 2010, Blanding received 65.5 percent of the grant funding, Monticello received 25.5 percent, and Bluff received nine percent of the funding.

Ronnie Biard, General Manager of Gouldings Lodge in Monument Valley, said, “I was honored to have state tourism leaders speak at Gouldings. Their presentations were informative and enlightening. I hope the conference will become an annual event hosted by the county. I believe the experience helped my staff see how important tourism is in Utah, the U.S., and the world. We really are an important industry in the economy and one of the few products the U.S. exports.”

“We were thrilled to have the opportunity to get state of the art training into the hands of the front line staff in our hospitality industry,” said DeLorme.

The next tourism conference will be held on November 29, 2011. Location and time will be announced at a future date.
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