|By Mike Gorrell, The Salt Lake Tribune|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 1, 2004 - Heading into the 20th anniversary of their organization, Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau officials are feeling good about the past and the future.
Proud of the past because the number of "room nights" booked at county hotel rooms has grown from 38,000 in 1984 to more than 500,000 last year, boosting direct visitor spending in Utah's capital city from $11 million to $212 million.
And optimistic about the future for multiple reasons: The city's single largest convention, the twice-yearly Outdoor Retailer trade show, has decided to stay in Utah for five more years; the Salt Palace Convention Center will expand once more, part of the effort to keep the $32 million that Outdoor Retailer annually brings to the community; a new working relationship has been struck with online booking company Travelocity to promote Salt Lake County ski resorts; and 2005 is expected to be a "banner year" for welcoming conventioneers to the city.
"We'll host more than 300 meetings, with 29 large conventions headquartered at the Salt Palace," Convention & Visitors Bureau President Dianne Binger told bureau trustees Thursday.
Those large groups alone are projected to generate $165 million in spending next year, revenue that will be supplemented by 1,500 ski groups, motor-coach tours and genealogy societies that will pass through.
Leading the list of 2005 conventions is August's meeting of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. It is expected to attract 18,000 attendees. The Society for Mining Metallurgy & Explorations is bringing 5,000 people to town in February, the same month 3,000 will come for an American Bar Association convention, while another 4,800 will attend the American Society of Agronomy meeting in November.
Oil chemists, military comptrollers, immigration lawyers and medical personnel involved with women's health, obstetrics and neonatal nursing also will "rent rooms in hotels, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in our restaurants, and spend a higher percentage of their money on retail shopping and attractions than locals on any given day," Binger said, emphasizing that every dollar invested in marketing Salt Lake County has a $42 return in direct spending, plus $4 in taxes for state and local-government coffers.
She contended Salt Lake City is still "benefiting from an Olympic renaissance," citing the recent construction of The Gateway shopping area, Grand America Hotel, Clark Planetarium and Olympic sports venues.
"What an exciting time it is to live and work in Salt Lake," Binger added. "This is Salt Lake's time to shine."
Ski Utah President Kip Pitou was pleased by the bureau's efforts to promote Utah skiing, even if he was not as optimistic about how many additional skiers will be attracted by the partnership.
"In theory it's a really good idea," he said. "But how much traffic is there? We'll have to see," he said. "But [the bureau] is trying very hard to make it work and I give them credit for that."
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