As Utah begins to move into the low-risk phase of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many doors will be opening throughout the state, including those of restaurants, shops and hotels. But, perhaps most importantly, front doors of many households will open. After several months of social distancing, doors will be bursting open as people aim to enjoy the fresh air and adventure in Utah’s many destinations. It is our job as locals to market the Carbon Corridor and the Swell as those desired destinations using social media in order to bolster our economy following these unusual months.
COVID-19 has had quite an effect on Carbon and Emery counties’ economies with Green River taking the biggest hit. Green River’s economy is based highly on tourism. Not only were events cancelled locally that would have brought in tourists, but events outside of the area create high traffic through town that contributes to Green River’s businesses, especially on the heels of the winter months when the cityis usually idle. Cancelled events in Moab resulted in large losses for the Green River community, which usually welcomes overflow from one of the state’s most popular destinations.
“They are a resort community. That means over 60% of their beds are for short term rentals, so that makes them a particularly vulnerable community, especially when something like this happens,” said Emery County Tourism Bureau Director Adriana Chimaras.
In addition, the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order authorized by Governor Herbert halted travel while the Southeast Utah Health Department temporarily banned camping and hotel stays to non-residents in the three-county area. This caused a dent in the monies these counties would begin to see as travel increased in the spring.
“With the strict regulations on dining and lodging because of COVID-19, transient room tax and restaurant tax is reporting lower for March compared to last year, but that is expected,” said Tina Henrie, Carbon Corridor Tourism Specialist. “For a while, we were discouraging visitors from recreating from outside the area, which was hard for tourism as a whole; however, moving into the second phase, that has opened up these areas.”
As locals, we have recreated the top destinations in the Carbon Corridor and the Swell countless times: Goblin Valley State Park, Nine Mile Canyon, Scofield Reservoir, Buckhorn Wash, Historic Helper and the Wedge, to name a few. While many of us post those photos to social networking sites, it is very important to our economy that we use the correct tools to increase tourism, and the dollars it generates, in our areas.
Locals can support our communities by acting as tourism ambassadors by tagging local cities and tourism organization in their posts, marking the location and using the correct hashtags that local cities and tourism organizations have created for us (listed below). This creates a domino effect; the more people that see what we have to offer, the more tourists that will visit the area. In return, the more money will be spent in our communities, bolstering our economy.
“Social media is a rare opportunity to connect with your audience on a different level,” said Amanda Paiz, owner of Marketing Elevated. “No other media allows you to converse with a customer before they have ever stepped foot in your location.”
Paiz continued to elaborate, explaining that social media outlets have the potential to show visitors the greatness of our area before they have even planned their trip.
Over the last several years, social media has made a huge impact on tourism. Trips are now being researched on social networking sites with the use of locations and hashtags. With an estimated of 2.95 billion people using social media worldwide, this is a marketing opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of, especially in our area. And while many tourists visit the area to enjoy our many events, that is not going to be the case this year.
“With the ongoing regulations on crowd sizes, most of our events have been cancelled. We rely heavily on events to bring in visitors to the Corridor,” said Henrie.
While many of our local summer festivities being cancelled due to the pandemic, we will begin to see a drop of tourists in our area. By focusing on what we already have to offer and promoting our destinations, we can help our community simply from just sitting on our couch in our own homes.
“Just about all social networks benefit tourism,” said Paiz. “Your traditional Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms are giving people the opportunity to share their life experiences, including where they travel.”
While social media may not be your thing, another way to help our communities is by leaving reviews regarding our local restaurants and establishments on TripAdvisor, Yelp, VRBO, Airbnb, etc. By doing so, you are giving our visitors the opportunity to read about your experience while they are in our area to help them have an overall positive experience.
“Now, we just need them to ‘Stop, Shop and Roll.’ Spend some money in the communities they are visiting to help boost our economy,” said Henrie. “Grab a bite to eat from one of our local eateries, stop for gas and snacks or even get your outdoor gear here, then roll out to your next adventure.”
With about 6,000 square miles covering the two counties, there are many adventures to be had. Just remember to camp in designated camping areas and show our public lands the upmost respect.
“I would encourage folks to check out other dispersed camping,” said Chimaras. “If they really want to stay in Buckhorn, they can check out anything down Mexican Hat Road. If they were looking to go toward Goblin Valley, then instead of doing Little Wild Horse, check stuff out around Temple Mountain. Near the reef, there are also some great hiking trails there as well.”
As a reminder, always tell someone where you are going, bring extra food and water, check the weather before you go, have a map handy and make sure you have enough fuel to get where you are going and back.
While much is left unknown on how the rest of the year will unfold with the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is certain: our roads are now open for tourism.
“We are ready for visitors and excited to have folks support us,” said Chimaras.
San Rafael Swell