2012 a bright year for local tourism
by Steve Kadel
staff writer
Dec 13, 2012 | 1581 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Visitation to Arches National Park was up by 2.2 percent from January to October this year compared to the same period in 2011. Overall, Moab Area Travel Council officials report that tourism in the Moab area has been robust and they cite a hefty boost in transient room tax collections as evidence. Photo by Steve Kadel
Visitation to Arches National Park was up by 2.2 percent from January to October this year compared to the same period in 2011. Overall, Moab Area Travel Council officials report that tourism in the Moab area has been robust and they cite a hefty boost in transient room tax collections as evidence. Photo by Steve Kadel
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Moab and Grand County enjoyed a robust tourism season from February through November, according to a local tourism official.

Visits to Arches National Park were up over the previous year. There was a 12 percent boost in transient room tax revenues – a 3 percent tax levied on campsites and rooms rented at local motels and bed and breakfasts – and outfitters who provide river trips profited despite low water conditions on the Colorado River, said Marian DeLay, executive director of the Moab Area Travel Council.

“It’s really been a great year,” she said of the number of visitors and page views on the council’s website from prospective visitors. “The biggest surprise this year was that the river was extremely low, but river outfitters did so well.”

Revenue from restaurant and car rental taxes was up 1 percent over the same period a year ago, DeLay said.

The council uses the transient room tax as a barometer of tourism success, she said.

“When that’s up, it’s an indication business is good,” DeLay said. “For us, this is a good figure. The majority of those are first-time visitors.”

The Travel Council has been aggressively marketing Moab in Oregon and southwest Washington for the past three years and DeLay says the strategy has paid off. Next year, the emphasis will move into central and northern Washington, particularly the Seattle area, she said.

Among the advertising mechanisms have been personal presentations by travel council representatives at Pacific Northwest REI Coop stores. “It’s been good for us,” DeLay said of the effort.

At Arches National Park, the tourism blitz helped push up visitor numbers by 2.2 percent from January through October 2012 compared with the same period a year earlier. Travel council figures showed that 1,016,106 visits to Arches were recorded during the first 10 months of this year.

The travel council received 27,305 requests from U.S. sources for information on the Moab area from January through October. California led the list, followed by Texas, Colorado, Oregon and Florida.

Among foreign requests for information, Canada led with 1,480 followed by France, 187; Germany, 172; the United Kingdom, 150; Italy, 113; and the Netherlands, 111.

Of those numbers, the vast majority was for general tourism and recreation information – 30,780 requests. Hiking and backpacking followed with 4,491 requests, with lodging the third most popular topic with 4,264 requests.

Brett Sutteer, owner of Moab Cliffs and Canyons, agreed it was a successful tourism season.

“We did see a boost in the last year,” he said. “Our numbers were up.”

His company tracks “user days” on federal lands as part of an agreement to stage tours on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property. Sutteer said the numbers jumped from 2,300 user days in 2011 to 2,800 this year.

He reported nearly a 20 percent increase in sales from 2011 to 2012. Part of the jump might have resulted from hiring a couple of office employees to handle walk-in traffic, Sutteer said.

“That was kind of a gamble,” he said, “and it’s hard to say whether the increase we saw was the result of their availability.”

Ashley Korenblat, owner of Western Spirit Cycling Adventures, characterized the recent tourism season as “better, but not great. We’re still not back from the full recession.”

Moab Brewery manager and co-owner Mike Miller said business in 2012 matched past years but wasn’t on a dynamic scale. He said motion picture production companies that filmed in Moab helped some local restaurants, which provided catering, but the brewery didn’t realize related sales.

Theresa Butler, owner of Moab Rafting and Canoe Co., said that firm got business from people in a wider geographic area this year than in the past. Another trend, she said, is toward people with less outdoor experience signing up for trips.

“One lady asked if we would be outdoors all day,” Butler said.

Melena Walby, general manager of Peace Tree, said its revenue for the period was below average.

“I think more people were coming to town, but they brought food with them for camping,” she said. “We have a lot of Italian theme to our dinner menu and being next to Pasta Jay’s might be a hindrance.”

Walby plans to remodel the restaurant’s interior and revamp the menu next year with more fresh fish and seafood.

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