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Tourism conference focuses on ways to keep folks coming to Utah

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Posted at 10:25 PM, Oct 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-09 17:03:01-04

BRYCE CANYON, Utah - Utah governor Gary Herbert says 2016 is the year of the Chinese tourist. Predictions are that more international visitors are planning trips to the Beehive State.

This week, Herbert spoke as part of the 2015 tourism convention held at Bryce Canyon. Tourism directors say the industry is the fastest growing in the state, bringing in $1.07 billion in state and local tax revenues. Herbert has challenged the state office of tourism to increase that number to $1.2 billion in the next five years.

Vicki Varela, Utah State Office of Tourism managing director, said it shouldn’t be too hard, as more and more people are discovering what Utah has to offer.

“We have been discovered,” Varela said. “If you travel nationally, internationally, if you tell people you’re from Utah, they know about the greatest snow on earth, they know about the Mighty Five national parks, and they probably have it on their bucket list.”

Varela said trends in tourism show a surge in international tourism, and she said it’s an ongoing result of the state’s “Mighty Five” campaign, which launched in 2012 and focuses on the five national parks in Utah. Herbert told tourism directors on Tuesday international spending habits show a lot of those international trips will be coming from China.

“Based on our experience with Visa credit card, China leapfrogged European visitors second only to Canada in spending here in the United States and in Utah,” Herbert said.

The state commitment to the tourism industry is something local business owners are grateful for, particularly here in Bryce Canyon. Ruby’s Inn Resort general manager Lance Syrett said it’s because they rely on tourism to carry them through the rest of the year.

“We always say we have about six months to make our money,” Syrett said. “So if we don’t make the money in six months, we’re kind of like that squirrel that didn’t get enough nuts and he’s going to starve through the winter.”

Another strong trend in tourism has to do with social media. Hashtags and posts are spreading the wonders of to a global audience.