Utah tourism off 10% in 2009, $700 million lost

Utah isn’t quite the tourist destination it used to be. Last year, the number of visitors to the state fell by a million, and spending declined 10 percent. The recession kept people from rushing to the slopes, according to the state’s 2010 Economic Report to the Governor. Hotel occupancy rates plunged to their lowest level in six years. The number of skiers checking into the state’s 13 resorts fell by 300,000, and more visitors took cars instead of planes.

Tourist spending fell by $700 million in Utah, amounting to $6.2 billion last year, after several consecutive years of growth for the tourism and travel industry, which is one of the state’s major money-makers. Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, an industry group, told The Associated Press, “People who came out here spent their money differently. The same family of five might have come out – they’ve gotta have that ski vacation and do whatever it takes to get it. Instead of renting three hotel rooms, they squeeze into one or stay at their aunt’s house.”

Even though the green wasn’t flowing as easily, 2009 was still the third best year on record for Utah, but it’s likely to be bumped to #4 by 2010, since a modest increase is expected this year. Rafferty believes the number of skiers coming to Utah will increase by 3 percent, to 4.1 million.

[Photo by Mat_the_W via Flickr]