The Utah Office of Tourism announced the completion of three Destination Development plans for Visit Ogden, Heber Valley Tourism and Emery County Office of Tourism. The goal of the Destination Development program grant opportunities is to empower Utah communities to create, clarify and communicate their qualities as a visitor destination. This year, the planning process was all conducted virtually and engaged local leaders and communities to develop locally led and supported tourism plans.
“The tourism industry plays an integral role in the success of Utah’s economy. It is inspiring to see, in spite of the pandemic, that destinations are thoughtfully shaping their tourism futures,” said Vicki Varela, managing director for the Utah Office of Tourism. “These planning efforts are at the core of our Red Emerald Strategic Plan to support community led visitor readiness. We look forward to seeing the tangible results of their respective plans.”
Utah’s Destination Development Grants program began in 2015 as a single grant product that offered a community assessment by destination expert Roger Brooks. Acting as a first-time visitor, Brooks “secret shopped” the destination to identify the strengths and weaknesses of tourism attractions and suggest incremental improvements. The program has since added two additional grant opportunities: strategic development planning, and branding and marketing solutions.
Last year’s grant recipients, Carbon County and Beaver County, served as the program’s pilots by fully progressing through all three programs. The two counties have created success by crafting new brand identities and executing their short-term destination goals to help achieve their long-term tourism visions.
“A year after its completion, Carbon County’s destination development plan has been an invaluable resource,” said Rita Vigor, Carbon County Economic Development Specialist. “This process provided us a simple and easy framework to advance our tourism goals and can be used as a model for any community’s tourism management efforts.”
The Utah Office of Tourism is now accepting applications for 50/50 matching fund grants for destination development planning for 2021. Eligible applicants include counties, municipalities, Native American tribes and destination marketing organizations. Applying for co-op dollars is a competitive process and includes identifying measurables that show a return on investment through the state. Applications will be accepted now until Feb. 5, 2021.