Carbon County Tourism DIrector Shalee Johansen and Emery County Tourism Director Mike McCandless, gave a presentation at the regular meeting of the Business Expansion and Retention (BEAR) council. While focusing on different aspects of tourism in their counties, both directors felt like their efforts were paying off in the amount of dollars being spent in the area.
Johansen spent time highlighting the tracking program she was using to find out how much is being spent in the Carbon County restaurants and other attractions using gift and discount cards. The cards are redeemed in local businesses by tourists who stop into the office. The business then sends the receipt of the actual purchase to Johansen. The free and discounted tickets have resulted in people spending more money at each local business.
A partnership with the museums to bring in school groups from all over the state has also been paying off with families returning to the area. Each child is given a goodie bag with a boxed lunch when they arrive on their field trip. These lunches include free and discount cards to area attractions that can be used when they come back. Inquiries to the Travel and Tourist office increase greatly in the days after the school field trips.
McCandless reminded the council that the hotel stays and money spent at area restaurants by energy workers is also a boom to tourist dollars. He said that Emery County is the only county with four state parks inside its borders, with two more right next door. Emery County has been working in partnership with the state parks to let them run more like a business. This has allowed the state to upgrade the amenities and make them a more desirable destination.
He also stressed that the focus on both tourism offices should be on recognizing the area is part of a larger target area for visitors. They will be looking at taking on multiple sites in Utah and by making this area a place to stay an extra day during a larger trip. It then becomes more likely that tourists will come back for future visits.
Other items discussed at the meeting included a cautiously optimistic lookout for the local economy. Businesses that have diversified and are providing goods and services outside the area are doing well. Locally, there is concern over finding qualified workers because drug and alcohol issues are high. Poor customer service from area businesses are also discouraging to other businesses in the area. These concerns will be addressed in future meetings.