Utah’s Tourism Industry Losing $20 Million Per Day

May 13, 2020, 7:06 PM | Updated: 8:00 pm

SPRINGDALE, Utah – Even as Utah’s recreation destinations begin to reopen, there’s worry about what the future of travel looks like and if tourism-based companies can survive the sharp drop in visitors.

Residents and business owners in Springdale, which sits at the entrance of world-famous Zion National Park, watched with anticipation as the park reopened to visitors on Wednesday.

“There’s still some businesses closed down, even though we’re open today,” said Springdale Mayor Stan Smith. “So we don’t really know who’s going to come out of it and who’s not.”

Smith said the complete lack of travel during the pandemic hit the tourism town hard.

“Asking around, some of the hotels lost 99.5 percent of their income, or revenue, for the month of April,” Smith said. “That’s a lot of money to have to lose.”

Smith, who owns a hotel himself, said he was comfortable with Zion opening its gates, and that local businesses are ready for customers.

“Even if we have a good summer and a good season — everybody’s in a survival mode,” Smith said.

State tourism officials estimate the Beehive State has been losing out on upwards $20 million per day in visitor spending.

“It will be well into 2021, perhaps late into 2021, before our tourism businesses start to get back to 2019 revenues,” said Vicki Varela, the managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism.

In 2018, visitors to the Beehive State spent an estimated $9.75 billion, according to the tourism office.


Varela described the foreseeable future of tourism as Utahns traveling within the state, and regional car travel. That means businesses will have to survive without the usual flood of foreign travelers, who stay longer and spend more money.

“It’s a very long road before we see international visitation of any significance,” she added.

A survey of nearly 500 tourism-related businesses in Utah found that 72 percent expect continued revenue declines, according to an online survey conducted by the tourism office from April 27 to May 1. In addition, 40 percent of tourism businesses anticipated layoffs or reduction in pay or hours.

The survey also found that confidence in the tourism industry is pessimistic for the next 12 months followed by 3 years of improvement.

Varela said the immediate focus is getting tourism-based businesses access to state and federal aid. Once they’re stabilized, the next step will be helping visitors feel comfortable with traveling again

“We want to communicate to consumers about best practices because that’s how we will survive this,” she said.

Varela was hopeful Utah can emerge from the pandemic stronger and with a renewed appreciation for our outdoor recreation opportunities.

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Utah’s Tourism Industry Losing $20 Million Per Day