Salt Lake City uses Facebook contest to get you psyched

The #1 Fan Sweepstakes for the Salt Lake City CVB’s Facebook fan page kicked off on January 15, 2010 and runs until February 12, 2010. The goal is to get the number of fans pumped up to 5,000, while giving potential visitors information about everything Utah: from skiing to genealogy to Mormonism to convention business. Already, the number of fans has almost doubled — from 1,200 to 2,200 — indicating that the new Facebook push is working.

This is a trend that’s becoming increasingly common: travel companies and destinations are turning to Facebook to promote themselves and attract tourists. Recently, JetBlue and the Mexican Council for the Promotion of Tourism kicked off Facebook programs to attract interest and (hopefully) generate the sort of interest that will help them overcome the severe travel industry slump that we’ve been coping with for more than a year now. For Salt Lake City, which has been executing an aggressive media campaign, the move into social media isn’t at all surprising.

According to Inside Facebook, the #1 Fan Sweepstakes isn’t the first push that the Salt Lake City CVB has made on Facebook. Rather, it reflects the lessons learned from previous efforts. Says Shawn Stinson, Director of Communications for the CVB, “We started with a number of different Facebook fan pages: ski, visit, genealogy, meetings, and that didn’t work. It was too littered. So we went to simply Visit Salt Lake.” The straightforward approach is anchored in this new initiative. According to Stinson, “This contest in particular is being used to drive an increase in our fan base because we are looking to distribute more and more information via Facebook.”

The grand prize is a ski trip for two that is packed with extras beyond airfare and lodging: ski passes and a FLIP video camera are included, and the winner is expected to shoot video for a blog about the trip. Other prizes include a set of Dynastar skis and bindings, a two-day Ski Salt Lake pass valid at any of the four resorts in Salt Lake and 20 Ski Salt Lake belt buckles and t-shirts.

Are you a fan of Gadling on Facebook yet?

Salt Lake City ready to let the liquor flow

It’s no secret that Salt Lake City isn’t exactly the top destination for travelers who like to bend their elbows a lot. The local culture isn’t terribly sympathetic to booze-fueled partying, but there are signs that icy receptions are being swapped for drinks on the rocks. The capital of Utah recently lifted a prohibition that only allowed two bars on every block downtown. The relaxed rules are the result of an increase in nightlife over the past few years. Drinkers may not be terribly popular … but in this cash-strapped economy, it’s hard to imagine that the state doesn’t want all that extra revenue.

According to the mayor of Salt Lake City, Ralph Becker, “We have diverse needs. We have antiquated laws. It’s an important step in creating a downtown we all want.”

Scott Beck, President and CEO of the Salt Lake CVB calls the measure “an exciting shift for Salt Lake as downtown continues to evolve into one of the most vibrant cultural, business and residential centers in the U.S.” He continues, “Lifting the ban on bar restrictions is a crucial step that will allow the City to reach its rightful place as a sophisticated metropolitan hub.

This new legislation follows broad changes to the state’s liquor laws, which have been criticized frequently by those who like to imbibe. The state’s private club system has been made unnecessary, for example, as Salt Lake City moves to a framework more consistent with what is found in other major cities across the United States.

The shift in liquor laws signals the greater changes that are coming to Salt Lake City. Currently in development is the City Creek Center Project, which will house premier retail, office and residential space on close to 20 acres over three blocks in the heart of Salt Lake City. The district is expected to be completed in 2012.

[Photo by ClarkProductions2008 via Flickr]

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]

Eat, drink and ski happy in Salt Lake this winter

What’s the happiest place on Earth? Well, Disney claims that title, but here’s the problem: Utah does, too. If they were in different countries, no conflict would exist, but since they do, we have to sort this out.

A Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index recently released ranks Utah highest among all states in happiness. And, if that’s not enough, Men’s Fitness magazine ranked Salt Lake City fittest in America. So, the endorphins are firing, and Utah is thrilled. Want to get a little taste of this happiness?

The Gold Medial Podium Package celebrates Salt Lake’s Olympic legacy. Skiers and snowboarders can hit the slopes while taking advantage of some great deals. Book a four-night vacation by December 15, 2009 — including a Ski Salt Lake Super Pass — at any of the 22 participating hotels, and your fourth day on the slopes and your fourth night in the hotel are free.

Drinking in Utah no longer for members only

Four decades after making it difficult to get a drink, Utah realizes that buying liquor involves spending, too. Last week, the state decided to allow liquor to be sold to anyone with a valid form of ID. For the past 40 years, getting a drink has involved becoming a member of a private club – which required an application and a fee.

The cost of tradition, it seems, is $7 billion – the amount Utah pulls in from tourism every year. Officials figure they can add to that number by selling wine with dinner, among other liquors and situations.

You know what … it just might work.

I know a lot of people by liquor in New York, and I vaguely remember seeing people in Boston, Washington and Chicago spending cash on booze, too. It happens from coast to coast, as of July 1, 2009 without exception.

The private club rules that are now assigned to history were not particularly severe, but it’s not hard to see how they could become a pain in the ass. Annual membership fees started at $12, and you needed a separate membership for each bar. Tourists could buy temporary memberships, starting at $4 for three weeks, but they could only bring up to seven guests into a bar with them.

Hotels built the membership fees into their room rates, so they could drink at the hotel bars without fear of misstep. Bars that served only beer didn’t require memberships.

Yeah, you need needed a chart to keep the various rules straight. Now, it’s pretty easy. Belly up to the bar and order yourself a shot!