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Utah Tourism Industry Trying To Comeback From COVID-19 Devastation

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah’s travel and tourism industry is beginning to slowly make a comeback after losing billions of dollars because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new national study by technology data company seoClarity showed the unemployment rate in the industry is still over 10% in Utah and over 20% nationwide.

“Tourism is the most devastated industry in the state. Tourism depends on people going places and we’ve all been staying home,” said Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism.

Varela said Utah is in a good position to make a comeback. 

“It’s two things — it’s our amazing outdoor recreation, and it’s our state’s willingness to recover in our industry. It really takes those two things to pull us out of this,” she said. 

However, Varela warned the industry is not going to recover overnight. 

“It’s going to take several years. 2023, 2024 — it’s going to be a long slow recovery,” she said. 

Scott Evans, owner of the Pago Restaurant Group that owned seven restaurants pre-COVID-19, is now down to two restaurants and had to lay off dozens of employees.  

“Overnight, instantly everything changed,” said Evans from his Pago restaurant at 900 South and 900 East in Salt Lake City. That’s because some of his restaurants relied heavily on the tourism industry. One downtown location had seating for 250 people. 

“Once all of the groups started canceling, that was probably 80% of our business, and it went away instantly,” said Evans. 

He’s doing more than just trying to survive. 

“Everything is different this year and we are just trying to be as creative as we can to come up with as many solutions (as possible),” he said.

If you or someone you know needs help with a job, their business and information on COVID-19, visit a comprehensive website the state has set up that lists all available resources.

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