by Louise R. SHAW
SALT LAKE CITY—Skiing, hiking, bird watching, bike riding – all activities open to Utah residents and visitors were featured in displays in the rotunda of the Utah State Capitol on Monday for Tourism Day on the Hill.
Representatives of Utah’s counties and tourism industries were on hand to visit with legislators about the impact their decisions would have on those who live in or visit the state.
“We look forward to the opportunity to have one-on-one time with local representatives to talk about issues specific to our counties” said Brittany McMichael of the Washington County Convention and Tourism Office.
Several issues of concern are expected to come before the legislative session this year, she said, including the increase in fees for national parks and transit room taxes.
Neka Roundy was one of several representing Davis County at the capitol, sharing information about everything from Antelope Island State Park to Lagoon, bike trails to golf passes, SeaQuest to the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival.
Financing to support tourism in the state is a major concern, she said, and she hopes that the Utah Office of Tourism will receive all the funding they have earned through the Tourism Marketing Performance Fund.
The fund “captures revenue from predefined tourism related sales tax growth” in 21 related industries, according to a legislative brief.
If the tourism office receives all it has earned, said Roundy, it would be an extra $3 million for a total of $24 million.
Should the legislature also determine that funds are available for capital facilities improvements in state parks, she hopes Antelope Island will “get some attention.”
Keeping roads in good shape is another need Roundy sees. Now that electric cars and fuel-efficient cars use less or no gas, they no longer pay their share of needed road repairs through the gas tax.
Tourism brings money to the region from visitors outside the state, she said.
According to a brochure prepared by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, tourists spent $8.4 billion in Utah in 2016, and $7.21 of that amount came from non-residents.
National park visits reached 10.1 million in 2016, up from 5.3 million in 2000. Skier days totalled 4.6 million in 2016, an increase from 3.3 million in 2000.
The report indicates that Utah had 144,200 tourism-generated jobs in 2016, a big jump from the 125,500 just four years earlier.
The same report indicated that Utah generated a record $1.23 billion in total state and local tax revenue due to visitor spending in 2016.
That same year, Davis County brought in $1.5 million through county transient room tax revenue.