MOAB, Utah — As spring breakers from across the state and country flock to southern Utah to enjoy the outdoors, cities like Moab and Springdale are faced with the challenge of balancing what's good for businesses and what's good for public health.
"I've felt completely safe, like there hasn't been any safety concerns or anything like that," said Montana resident Olivia Baker. She is spending her spring break in Zion National Park with her family. "I felt like everything has been handled really well and safely."
Elaine Gizler, the director of Discover Moab, said the city is much busier now than this time last year.
"It was noticeable on the weekend," she said. "Especially with traffic."
Gizler said Moab is in a unique position to offer guests a safe way to enjoy their spring break.
"Not being an urban area, I think people do feel safer because they're out and about and on trails and riding bikes and just enjoying the outdoors," she added.
The Tabatabeifar family, visiting from California, said they chose Utah for exactly that reason.
"We've been concerned — that's why we are in the beautiful nature here," said Ahmad Tabatabaeifar. "We enjoy it. It's a beautiful day with sunshine and not many people around."
A quick search on Airbnb for rentals in Moab shows how in-demand the area is. Nothing is available this week, and in Springdale, situated right outside of Zion National Park, there is only one location available to rent.
"I do think with the onset and completion of the vaccinations that are happening, I think more people are going to feel more comfortable about coming to the public lands," Gizler added.
Gizler said tourism numbers in Moab are back to their pre-pandemic levels, which is good news for businesses and the local economy.
"Now I think people are taking a deep breath and saying, 'Wow, this is good. It looks like people are going to return,'" she said.
Although COVID-19 cases are dropping in Utah and more people are getting vaccinated, Gizler said the focus is still on keeping people safe. She is asking everyone who is visiting to continue to wear masks and to keep their distance from others while they are in town.