An estimated 20 outfitters showed up for this year’s Tourism Expo, an event organized by the Moab Area Travel Council. Outfitters set up tables in the Moab Art and Recreation Center to represent their businesses. In a separate room, speakers from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and others gave what Callie Whitney of the travel council described as a series of education seminars, presenting seasonal news from their organizations. Moab City Mayor Emily Niehaus spoke about city projects, and Grand County Trail Mix members presented information on what trails they maintain and what they plan to build this season. There was also an update on airport construction and on goings-on at Sand Flats Recreation Area, Whitney said.
“It’s an education seminar basically to help with the businesses so they can kick off the year and know what’s coming for the new year and things that have happened in the past year,” Whitney said.
Turnout was slightly down, with Whitney estimating about 20 outfitters present this year compared to 23 last year.
However, a few new faces showed up. “This year we also had Classic Air Medical come, which was pretty cool because they got to visit and talk with people about their helicopter service and membership plan,” Whitney said.
Other attendees included Sarah Sidwell representing the Museum of Moab and Darby Kelly of Moab Horses.
“We are trying to let everybody know about everything that’s going on with the museum, all of the new plans for the remodel, and also that we are a great resource for finding out about the Moab area,” Sidwell said.
“We’re getting ready for this summer. This summer is looking to be good for everybody so it’s going to be a great year,” Kelly said.
Kristl Johnson of Sheri Griffith Expeditions has attended the expo for the past several years and confirmed that turnout was lower.
“It … seemed like less people had time to come and visit with us. There were a few that did but I don’t think it was as well-attended as it has been in the past,” Johnson said.
As for the educational seminar, news was not all positive.
“What I was told was that it was a lot of gloom and doom from the [National Park Service] ... and BLM, that they’re too full of people,” Johnson said.
She described the message from the federal land managers as “we’re full, quit selling us … [and] there’s nothing we can do about it.”
However, Johnson said, the expo was still a valuable opportunity to connect with other outfitters.
“It’s always great for outfitters to have the opportunity to network with each other and talk to each other about the services they offer … If I don’t know what’s there, I can’t sell it. So I think that the networking is great. It’s great to be able to sit and talk and visit with other outfitters, other people who are offering services in Moab so that we can all help each other,” Johnson said.