Salt Lake City Int’l Airport Returns To Pre-Pandemic Levels As Tourism Booms

Jul 6, 2021, 7:19 PM | Updated: 7:58 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Even without the typical number of international and business visitors, the Salt Lake City International Airport reports that air travel is back to pre-pandemic levels.

“Salt Lake is definitely back. The airport is back. Flying is back,” said Bill Wyatt, the airport’s executive director.

Wyatt said he expects some record-breaking days at the airport this summer, despite the reduced level of international travel.

“We’re pretty much back to where we were pre-pandemic in Salt Lake,” Wyatt said. “We’re at 105% of where we were in 2019, and that puts Salt Lake City International at the top of the list.”

He said Utah is a top destination because people feel safe in the outdoors. There was a strong demand for air travel during both the summer and winter tourism seasons.

Zions Bank senior economist Robert Spendlove joined Wyatt at the airport for a press conference Tuesday morning and said the return of the travel industry is one of the final pieces needed for the state’s economy to fully recover from the pandemic.

“The busy Fourth of July travel weekend is a great sign that our travel and tourism industry is making a strong comeback,” Spendlove said. “A boost in summer travel will have far reaching impacts on the economy, bringing back jobs and stimulating additional growth.”

Spendlove said while it will take time for business travel to fully bounce back, several business conferences are booked in Utah for later this year and many relocated from other cities.

“The business side of tourism continues to recover, although much more slowly than the leisure side of travel,” Spendlove said.

In April, hotel occupancy rates in Utah returned to 2019 levels, according to a research brief “Back to Baseline: Utah’s Tourism Economy Rebounds Post-Pandemic” by the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

“One year since the arrival of COVID in the U.S. and Utah’s tourism economy is back on track,” the June report said. “Leisure and hospitality employment in southern Utah rebounded ‘back to baseline’ last fall, while the rest of the state began catching up this spring.”

This March, 22 of Utah’s 29 counties collected more transient room tax revenue than in the same month in 2019, according to the report. The counties still below their 2019 hotel tax revenues were Davis, Salt Lake, Summit, Uintah, Utah, Wasatch and Weber.

The report said that all signs indicate that urban travel will make “huge strides towards recovery” during the second half of this year.

“Meanwhile, increased vaccine distribution, swollen savings accounts, and widespread remote employment will continue to bolster travel during the second half of this year, bringing the entire state back to — and even well above — 2019 baseline by 2022,” the research brief said.

The Utah Office of Tourism said the state’s world-renowned outdoor destinations continued to attract visitors during the pandemic.

“Our Mighty Five national parks have been setting monthly visitation records every month since October 2020,” said Anna Loughridge, the tourism office’s public relations manager.

Loughridge said the travel economy in urban areas will recover more fully as business, convention and event travel resumes.

“There are two different stories here: urban destinations are definitely still working towards recovery but a lot of our rural, gateway communities have already reached those 2019 numbers,” she said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Sharon McMahon has one million ‘Sharon Says So’ Instagram followers. (Sharon McMahon)...
Candice Madsen, KSL TV

Woman behind ‘Sharon Says So’ podcast explains how we stop screaming at each other

Sharon McMahon is known as America's government teacher. Every day, she takes to Instagram, clearing up misinformation with straight forward facts. KSL Newsradio's Boyd Matheson got some great advice from her about civility for our series, "A More Perfect Union."
7 hours ago
Candice Madsen, KSL TV

Why Utahns may need refresher course in civics education

Civic knowledge is alarmingly low in Utah and across the country. Only nine states require a full year of civics or government studies, and 10 states have no requirement at all.
1 day ago
FILE PHOTO (Deseret News)...
Madison Swenson & Debbie Worthen, KSL TV

Dog dies after being found unattended in hot car

Officials with Salt Lake County Animal Services are reminding Utahns to not leave their dogs unattended in a hot car after one died Tuesday.
1 day ago
File photo...
Matt Gephardt

Passenger says Priceline promised first-class tickets but only delivered coach

When you pay for a first-class ticket, you'd expect a first-class seat. So, what can you do when a third-party booking site sticks you into an economy class seat for the same price instead of the first-class ticket you bought?
1 day ago
8-year-old Macie Hill who tragically died at a Kaysville 4th of July parade. (Credit: The Hill Fami...
Dan Rascon & Andrew Adams, KSL TV

‘She was the sweetheart of the family’: Kaysville family remembers Macie Hill

An 8-year-old girl is remembered in Kaysville as the “light, sparkle, and sunshine” of her family after her tragic death on Monday.
1 day ago
Utah Highway Patrol cars watching the fireworks. (Credit: Utah Highway Patrol)...
Michael Houck

UHP: 5 fatal crashes, 2,500 drivers stopped for speeding during 4th of July weekend

Utah Highway Patrol reports a 26% increase of cited drivers over the Fourth of July weekend compared to 2021. 
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Salt Lake City Int’l Airport Returns To Pre-Pandemic Levels As Tourism Booms