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How is Utah's tourism doing? Internet Key to Success

By Loretta Park, Standard-Examiner, Ogden, UtahMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 15, 2009--LAYTON -- The future of Utah's tourism industry depends on its willingness to incorporate technology in its marketing, one expert said.

The majority of travelers now use the Internet to plan and book their trips, said Ken Foster, adjunct associate professor with the University of Utah Department of Communication. They also post photographs and journal as they are traveling, no longer waiting until they get home to share their experiences with their friends and family.

Holding up his cell phone, "they use this to share with their friends," said Foster, who was the keynote speaker at the 2009 Utah Tourism Conference at the Davis Conference Center in Layton on Thursday.

The tourism industry needs to use social networks to reach out to potential travelers, locally and out of state, he said. "Recent Nielsen surveys show social networks are getting more traffic than e-mails."

People use the Internet to plan their trips as a form of escape from the stresses of everyday life, he said.

"It's all about the Internet," said Barbara Riddle, president and chief executive officer of the Davis Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

No longer can agencies like hers focus on traditional advertising, and looking toward the future, they must start using the Internet to market Utah.

Travelers are also looking at staying closer to home this year than in the past because of the economy. It's not because they can't afford to travel out of state, but they can save while they're traveling, he said.

Foster pointed to the Wasatch Mountains and said many Davis residents have no idea what a treasure they have with Skyline Drive.

"It's amazing," Foster said. "I had friends from England here, and they thought they were going on a safari like the cliffs of Chile."

People have a mental desire to escape but are fearful about the economy, said Jamie Lythgoe with Ogden Valley Business Association.

Planning trips to destinations within a three- to four-hour drive helps alleviate the stress of the daily grind, she said.

Foster said Utah's tourism industry needs to pay more attention to marketing to Utahns because, if it doesn't, markets in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Arizona will zap those tourist dollars. Those states are spending money in Utah advertising what they have to offer.

Foster grew up in a military family and moved to a new location every 18 months.

"I've never lived anywhere that has so much diversity," Foster said. "You can stand on the red rocks of the Arches and see the snow-covered peaks of the La Sal (mountain range)."

Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert spoke to the conference before Foster.

In 2005, 17 million people visited Utah. In 2008, 20.4 million people visited the state, he said.


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