Utah has $10 million to spend this year promoting the state to potential outside tourists, and some statistics unveiled Monday indicate those dollars perhaps should be spent in nearby states.
Ed McWilliams, senior vice president of account services for Virginia-based travel and tourism market research company D.K. Shifflet & Associates, told the state Tourism Task Force that 60.8 percent of Utah's visitors come from the Mountain states, and 26.4 percent visit from Pacific states.
California alone accounts for 24.3 percent of visitors, behind in-state visitation of 38.1 percent.
"You want to focus your communications to the West, particularly California and Nevada, and don't forget the residents and day-trip markets," McWilliams told the group. "Focus on gaining back share of travel from (Los Angeles), Vegas, Denver and Idaho Falls."
McWilliams' slew of survey statistics indicated the visitors — surprise! — enjoy sightseeing, visiting parks and involvement in outdoor activities.
"Outdoor activities are the clear niche that Utah holds in the consumers' minds," he said. "You can sell them national and state parks, hiking and biking, camping, nature travel, adventure sports and snow skiing, and it's those sporting activities that tend to have the highest expenditure level. So clearly when you target that, you result in good benefits for the state."
The survey results from 2003 and 2004 indicate that visitors rank highly their satisfaction with Utah and the value for the money here. "You're definitely delivering what people expect," he said.
"There are a lot of strengths here. There are some very positive numbers. I'm not fortunate usually to tell such a good story to many states. You're in a great situation."
The stats also show that in-state visitors are typically families with young children, although people age 55 and older without children are a growing segment and usually spend more than families during their stays.
"You need to keep an eye on that 55-plus, high-income segment. They're growing, and they're very big spenders and a valuable component of the market," McWilliams said.
He added that couples also are a growing trend among Utah visitation and suggested that the state continue to encourage longer stays from visitors.