|By Mike Gorrell, The Salt Lake
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 15, 2010--An effective out-of-state advertising campaign last summer saved Utah's tourism industry from an even larger decline than it experienced in recession-ravaged 2009.
Denise Miller, a vice president for Indianapolis-based Strategic Marketing & Research Inc., said Thursday that the "Utah -- Life Elevated" campaign attracted $700 million worth of tourism business to the state that would not have come without the TV-driven promotion. The cost for those ads: $3.2 million.
Even with that infusion of money, traveler spending in Utah last year declined 10 percent from 2008 to $6.2 billion. That total includes all visitors, both leisure and business travelers. But the number of tourists fell 4.4 percent from 20.3 million in 2008 to 19.4 million last year, according to figures in the 2010 Economic Report to the Governor.
"The message is, advertising works and good advertising works even better," said Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon after Miller's presentation to the Board of Tourism Development. He is one of the board's 13 members.
Utah's overall performance last year generally mirrored national trends, said Miller, whose company does market research for 15 states, including tourism heavyweights California and Florida. Spending nationally fell 7 percent last year, when leisure travel slipped 2 percent and business trips dropped 6 percent.
"So people were still traveling, but spending less," she said, noting the appeal of more affordable
trips was reflected in a 5.4 percent visitation increase at Utah's five national parks. Overall, Miller figured the campaign lured to Utah almost 810,000 tourists who would not have come had they not seen the ads.
Utah managed to keep pace with the rest of the country despite an 18 percent decrease in its ad campaign (from $3.9 million to $3.2 million) between 2008 and ' 09.
Miller attributed that decent performance to the campaign's creative content and to the fact Utah advertised heavily on national cable channels in addition to three "spot markets" -- Los Angeles, Denver and Phoenix. Only one other state that her company works with, California, focused so extensively on cable and came close to Utah in matching its return on investment: $222 in traveler spending for every dollar spent on ads. Tax revenues amounted to $18 for each of those dollars, she said.
"You guys are onto something. As long as no one else catches on, you'll be OK."
With the summer approaching, the board authorized Tourism Office Deputy Director David Williams to commit up to $228,000 next week for print ads in magazines such as Backpacker, Outside and Sunset.
Miller said Utah's mix of print, online and television advertising works well in making indelible impressions on potential tourists. She recommended more of this multipronged approach, with content emphasizing Utah's "value," not in terms of low prices but as a place where there is lots to do.
Board members, in turn, hope her numbers impress legislators who soon will build a 2010-11 budget certain to contain cuts for all agencies.
"If I were a legislator and I saw these numbers, I'd double our budget instead of cutting it," said Colin Fryer of Moab.
Added Joel Racker of the Utah Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau: "We need to really understand these number so we can defend them and push the message that [tourism advertising] works."
Utah's tourism industry in 2009
Attracted 19.4 million visitors, down 4.4 percent from 2008 (20.3 million)
All travelers spent $6.2 billion, 10 percent less than'08 ($6.9 billion)
Travel-related jobs totaled 110,508, down 3.6 percent, which represents 9.3 percent of Utah's non-farm employment
Number of passengers arriving at Salt lake City International Airport declined 3.4 percent
Skier-day totals fell to 3.9 million from record 4.25 million in 2008, but was still third best ever
Source: The 2010 Economic Report to the Governor
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