Relief In Sight For Salt Lake’s Hard-Hit Visitor Economy

Mar 25, 2021, 11:20 PM | Updated: 11:26 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Relief is in sight for the hard-hit visitor economy in Salt Lake City after a year of virtually no in-person events or gatherings.

If you’ve been to Salt Lake City, you’ve likely seen the Salt Palace. The building has been a gathering place downtown since 1996. And the nonprofit Visit Salt Lake has been tasked with bringing visitors to town.

“The whole idea is that we bring people here, they spend their money at our hotels, our restaurants, our attractions. They go away leaving their money behind,” said Mark White, senior vice president of Visit Salt Lake.

But for the last year, it’s been quiet.

“It has been a very big problem,” White said from inside the Salt Palace. “I really don’t recall the last group that was here.”

And it shows. White said they’ve lost about $360 million from canceled conventions, and that doesn’t even include the $971 they estimate each visitor spends on average at hotels, restaurants and attractions during their visit to Salt Lake City.

“2008-2009 was tough,” White said. “But there’s been nothing remotely near this.”

“I think few people are aware of the size and impact of the visitor economy,” White added. He said visitors spent more than $9.5 billion in Utah in 2019.

“It is of key importance that we get this back up and running for all of the folks in Salt Lake and the rest of the state,” he said.

Now, for the first time in a long time, the events, tourism and hospitality industries of Salt Lake have something to look forward to.

“Things are looking up,” White said.

On Thursday Governor Spencer Cox said Utah is on track to lift all restrictions by July 1. Restrictions have already eased in several counties, the spread of COVID-19 continues to take a hit and the vaccine distribution is now open to all Utahns 16 and older.

“I think we have a lot of reason to be optimistic,” White said.

2020 was still a big year for bookings. The first part of 2021 looks similar to 2020, but there are several events scheduled in the coming months and years, including big conventions in June and August at the Salt Palace.

Still, White said they expect a fraction of the number of visitors than they normally get for the scheduled conventions. And even after things return to “normal,” he expects the industry won’t look the same.

KSL+: Pandemic Challenges Highlight Issues Already Facing Workers

“I believe we will see some permanent changes,” White said.

For years he said convention planners have talked about moving to a virtual format and that the pandemic “put that in hyperdrive.” In other words, they expect conventions will return to in-person gatherings but continue to have a virtual option to attend. But White said the Salt Palace has a new broadcast studio that puts them ahead of other destination cities and in a good position to offer a hybrid experience.

“We want them to come visit of course, but for those who choose not to, we now have a way to communicate with them,” he said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

The small plane that crashed at the Skypark Airport in Bountiful. (Josh Hardy, Battalion Chief Sout...
Michael Houck

A small plane crashes at Skypark Airport, one injured

A small plane crashed at the Skypark Airport in Bountiful Tuesday morning, according to authorities. 
13 hours ago
FILE: Getty Images...
Matt Rascon

Districts seek substitute teachers amidst shortages

School districts are asking their communities to help fill the expected gaps in the classrooms this year by becoming substitute teachers.
13 hours ago
Mazza Salt Lake City Restaurant....
Shelby Hintze & Michael Houck

Salt Lake City restaurant forced to cut hours and increase prices because of inflation

A local restaurant is cutting its hours back and increasing food prices due to inflation hitting them hard.
13 hours ago
West Jordan mother, Jessica Keetch Minnesota, who was killed in the Big Cottonwood Canyon crash (Co...
Lauren Steinbrecher

Neighborhood supports family of West Jordan mom killed in Big Cottonwood Canyon crash

 A neighborhood is coming together for a family after a terrible crash in Big Cottonwood Canyon left a West Jordan mother dead.
13 hours ago
Micahel Grant Asman is seen In this photo from June 12, 2022. Heber Police want to find him in conn...
Michael Houck

Heber homicide suspect found dead in Oregon

SALT LAKE CITY — The body of the murder suspect, Michael Grant Asman, 35, has been found in a state park in Oregon, authorities say. Asman was declared a suspect in the murder of 36-year-old Julie Ann Burns in July. According to the Heber City press release, Asman’s body was found Monday afternoon near Joseph, […]
13 hours ago
KSL’s Matt Gephardt fuels up his minivan to determine how much gas Google Maps’ eco-friendly ro...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Can Google’s eco-friendly routes really save you gas money?

Gas prices have edged down from their record highs, but they are still a far cry from being affordable for many Utah families. So, when Google rolled out a new feature for its Maps navigation app that says it can save you money on gas by using suggested eco-friendly routes, the KSL Investigators decided to put it to the test.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Relief In Sight For Salt Lake’s Hard-Hit Visitor Economy