SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – New data from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at The University of Utah has shown that Utah’s tourist industry has not only recovered following the 2020 COVID pandemic, it has boomed.
The institute recently released its State of Utah’s Travel and Tourism Brochure, comparing visitors, both domestic and international, and money earned over recent years. While 2022 data is preliminary and only estimates, the Policy Institute said Utah’s travel and tourism industry, including air travel, ski and park visitation, and tax revenue have all returned to – if not surpassed – 2019 levels.
Leading into the global shutdown in 2020, Utah’s tourist industry was slowly building. In 2019, Utah’s economy reportedly earned $9.95 billion in domestic spending. That number took an understandable hit in 2020, with the state bringing in only $7.25 billion in domestic spending. 2021 domestic spending not only recovered to 2019 levels but surpassed them, reaching $10.39 billion.
Utah’s National Parks were the stars of the state’s tourist industry. Pre-pandemic, the parks brought in over roughly 10 million visitors per year. After dropping to 7.8 million in the pandemic year, park visitors rebounded to over 11 million visitors in 2021. The Policy Institute said 2022’s inflation and rise in gas prices affected travelers, with the parks estimating 10.5 million visitors, on par with the pre-pandemic levels.
Ski Resorts on the other hand reached all time highs with 5.8 million visitors in 2021. So far 2022 estimates show 5.9 million visitors to Utah’s Ski Resorts, no doubt impacted by the incredible snowfall at the start of the 2022-23 winter season.
According to the Policy Institute, Utah’s tourism in 2021 directly led to over 130,000 jobs and earned what the institute says is a record $1.81 billion in total state and local tax revenue.
Utah’s 2023 tourism is already off to a great start. Snowfall continues to impact the ski resorts, bringing year-to-date totals in some resorts to 400 inches. The NBA All-Star game is expected to be an additional hundred thousand visitors to the state. As COVID restrictions world-wide continue to ease, international spending in Utah could see a rise to pre-pandemic levels as well.