SOUTHERN UTAH — A post-pandemic travel boom is hitting Utah as people flood the Beehive State for vacations. One tour company says hotels are full, and the national parks are bracing for a busy summer — even more than the outdoor rush that hit during 2020.
With COVID-19 restrictions lifting and vaccination numbers rising, it's clear that travelers think it's time to venture out.
Jason Murray, the president and owner of Southwest Adventure Tours out of Cedar City, said people are tired of being locked in their houses and communities.
He's already seeing it, even though summer vacation season is still weeks away.
"I thought last year was busy — this year it's just exploded, and the numbers are climbing even higher," he said.
People are choosing Utah, he added, because international travel is still uncertain. Many countries have yet to open their borders or drop quarantine rules.
"All those travelers, who are very well-traveled individuals, can't do their normal trips," he said.
So, those people are looking domestically for a new place to explore and check off the bucket list. And what better place than southern Utah, where one can see five national parks?
He said customers don't want to be restricted a second year in a row. They want to get out and travel somewhere.
"It's COVID revenge, so to speak, on the travel industry," Murray said.
Southwest Adventure Tours offers three kinds of experiences: Day trips/shuttle service, multi-day tours, and private/custom/self-driving trips.
The multi-day tours are filling up through fall. Many dates are already completely sold out.
They've also started booking for 2022.
Even the day tours and shuttle service, which Murray said are usually booked last minute, are going fast. Those are busy clear through September.
"Even those things are getting sold out in advance, and that's not normal," Murray said. "People are planning more ahead."
He said they are working with Zion Outfitters and Zion National Park to provide private shuttles into the park, to help with the demand there. Southwest Adventure Tours also plans tours and activities all throughout the western U.S. including in Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and throughout Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona.
It's busy and booking up all over.
"It's definitely busier than it has been in the past, this time of year," said Matthew Tesdall, the owner of Family Time Vacation Rentals.
He explained that they're seeing more people opt to rent vacation homes. Most people ask about cleaning standards, he said, and want to make sure their company offers contactless, keyless entry (they do).
Summer is trending to be busier or at least as busy as last year, Tesdall said. They don't see it slowing down any time soon.
Family Time Vacation Rentals, which is based in Parowan, offers homes, cabins and ski-in/ski-out condos in Brian Head, Panguitch, Panguitch Lake, Duck Creek, and the east side of Zion National Park, including in Mount Carmel and Kanab.
As people look to get out and travel, Tesdall said traffic is up in rural areas across the board.
Customers tend to be driving instead of flying, he said, and coming in from local areas whereas before they came mostly from out-of-state. He said they're seeing extended families choose southern Utah as a meeting point with everyone staying at one of the vacation homes, driving in from different places in northern Utah and surrounding states.
"These guys can get together and have family or friend time, which a lot of these states that we're offering to, they can't do that this last year," he said. "So it's been great for them. They've loved it."
Family Time Vacation Rentals still has plenty of spots open this summer.
Southwest Adventure Tours is finding that they have less and less openings.
So, if you want to book that ticket or tour, Murray urged people to do it now before everything is full.
He also suggested checking out off-the-beaten-path areas, rather than seeing main attractions that might be slammed this summer.
Murray sees this reflecting positively on the Utah economy as local businesses flourish.
"I love to see that we're going to be coming, we're roaring back. Not every travel industry, not every destination in the U.S. is going to experience what Utah is," he said. "But Utah and a lot of the Mountain Region and southwestern U.S. is going to see a lot of visitors this year."