Tourism is big business in Utah, generating $3.27 billion in 1993, which works out to an average of $1,752.41 for every Utahn, according to a recent report by the public policy research agency, the Utah Foundation.
Although tourism generated approximately $240 million in tax revenues, or $128.62 for every Utahn, and 66,000 Utah jobs depend on tourism, there are some challenges the tourism industry needs to overcome, the report says."Nearly twice as many people visit Utah today as 10 years ago. If visitation doubles again in the next 10 years, how will the state's natural areas hold up under the strain? Will the visitors' experiences be as good?" it asks.
The report said a recent Utah Travel Council survey found that while visitor satisfaction is high, the single most common complaint is congestion and crowds.
Financing is one of the keys, the report states. While the bulk of the $240 million in taxes now goes toward basic services for tourists or workers, little goes to planning, mitigation and infrastructure development for impacted areas.
"Funding considerations must be given a priority in this process," the report stated.
Utah has taxes that directly affect tourists. The transient room tax brought in $9.3 million in 1992 and an estimated $10.8 million in 1993. The restaurant tax brought in $9.4 million in 15 counties for 1992, while a resort-city sales tax, currently in effect in four communities, brought in $2.5 million. A car rental tax generated $1.8 million in two counties in 1992, most of it from Salt Lake County.
Some counties put all of their proceeds into advertising or promotion to generate more tourism, or they may apply it to a general economic development fund. Many spend much of their share on a county fair. Still others are using part of the proceeds to build convention and visitor facilities.
The report concludes that tourism is no longer a negligible part of the economy.
"When Utah tourism was small, it was easy to ignore many of these issues," the report said. "That is no longer the case."