World Cup soccer matches were a long distance from Utah, but they had an impact on the tourism industry in the Beehive State during the summer.
When soccer was being played in various parts of the country in June and July, the number of tourists decreased in some areas, but once they stopped kicking the ball around the tourists starting coming to Utah again and helped keep the tourism industry in the black.And, as Utahns approach the Labor Day weekend, it appears they will continue to boost the tourism industry by taking trips, eating in restaurants and staying in hotels and motels.
The good news for the tourism industry in Utah is a reflection of a nationwide trend of people shaking off the recession and taking vacations. The American Automobile Association expects more people to take Labor Day trips than in nine previous surveys.
Dave Porter, publicity director for the Utah Division of Travel Development, said he hasn't seen a slump in tourism in Utah and those traveling to Utah are staying longer than ever before. He said World Cup soccer kept some people away in June and July, but the slump was only temporary and people are returning.
Fred Rollins, district marketing director for Delta Air Lines, said the number of boardings in August was a record 570,744, a 9 percent increase over August 1993.
Rick Davis, president of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there were concerns last year about overcrowding in national parks, so the marketing strategy was to ask people to visit at times other than summer. That could explain why the number of people in the national parks is down.
He said reports that tourism took a dive in the summer months are accurate, but for the entire year tourism has increased 3-4 percent statewide. Because the Salt Palace Convention Center is undergoing an expansion and face-lift, the bureau has booked smaller meetings through 1995.
The type of people attending these meetings, Davis said, is different than those attending a regular convention. People attending the smaller meetings do less shopping, eat out less often and don't bring their spouse, who has more free time for tours and shopping.
Davis said the number of visitors at the Salt Lake International Airport Visitor Center is up 26 percent; up 13 percent at the Great Salt Lake visitor center; up 7 percent at the State Capitol and down 5 percent at the downtown visitor center. The combined 320,000 visitors is up 5 percent over last year.
Marty Ott, Utah coordinator for the National Park Service, said the year started out showing a slight increase in visitation but declined in June and July. The day after the World Cup matches were over, the number of visitors increased again and also increased in August.
Ott said the marketing strategy to encourage people to visit the parks at times rather than the summer was designed to give them a quality experience when fewer people are around. He said there still are plenty of people visiting the parks.
Brad Smith, executive director of Foremost West, a regional tourism promotion organization, said the number of foreign visitors to Utah will be up again this year as it has for the last 10 years. He said the number of visitors slowed in early summer, but after the soccer matches the number of foreign visitors returned, according to hotel owners and tour operators.
Smith said visitors from Germany, Japan and England will show double-digit growth this year.