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Utah Office of Tourism

U.C.A. 63M-1-1404
FY2013 was a strong year for tourism, with continued growth in the number of visits to the state and raised awareness of Utah as a prime travel destination.

In 2012, travelers spent an estimated $7.4 billion in Utah, contributing $960 million in tax revenues to the state, and establishing tourism as one of the state’s major economic contributors. A new Mighty Five™ national parks campaign, public relations strategy and expanded partnerships are all contributing to the Utah Office of Tourism’s (UOT) continued success.

The mission of UOT is to brand and promote Utah’s great experiences and destinations for visitors and citizens in an inspiring way to support and enhance economic vitality and quality of life in our state. The marketing program is concentrated on travel from non-resident visitors, generating one or more overnight stays. The office’s primary source of funding is the Tourism Marketing Performance Fund (TMPF), which calculates the funding based on the previous year’s tourism-related tax revenues.

This fund is strictly to be used for out-of-state marketing, with 10%  passed directly to the Utah Sports Commission to attract major sporting events to the state and 20% allocated to a co-operative marketing program with regional destination marketing partners and non-profit organizations. The balance is used for advertising, public relations and major event sponsorships such as the Sundance Film Festival and Tour of Utah.

To maximize the effectiveness of the TMPF marketing budget, UOT focuses our marketing campaigns on a select group of seven proven Western markets for the summer campaign and three winter markets, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C./Baltimore. Additionally, UOT works with a national public relations firm to secure valuable earned media coverage in national print, television and online publications such as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Outside, Sunset, NY Post, Town & Country, Fodors, and CBS This Morning and Afar.
International tourism also plays a key role in Utah’s economy, with visitors from Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Brazil, China and Mexico.

To support robust international visitation, UOT has agent offices in Germany, France, the UK and Japan and attends trade shows focused on the international, travel-trade market.
Collectively, UOT’s marketing and communications effort provide an integrated, comprehensive and multi-faceted promotional effort to inspire new and returning visitors to plan their vacations in Utah.


  • Vicki Varela appointed Managing Director of Tourism, Film and Global Branding. Varela assumed the role in February 2013. The office has been restructured to focus on creating an integrated global brand, building partner relations and creating a multi-platform communications strategy.
  • Tourism’s economic contribution continues to grow. Total spending by travelers in Utah was an estimated $7.4 billion between January and December 2012, a 7.8% increase over the prior year, according to D.K. Shifflet and Associates.
  • Tourism swells state and local tax coffers. Total state and local taxes generated by traveler spending as reported in 2013 was $960 million, an increase of 8% compared to 2011. 2012 Tax Relief per Household was $1,076, up from $1,007 in 2011.
  • Powerful storytelling with new Mighty 5 ad campaign. The UOT 2013 spring and summer marketing campaign, “The Mighty Five™,” focused on Utah’s five national parks and the amazing range of experiences available in the parks and surrounding areas. Regional DMO partners are reporting an excellent response from visitors through comments and visitor inquiries.
  •  FY2013 ad campaigns demonstrate strong ROI. Strategic Marketing and Research, Inc. estimates the total economic impact of the 2012 summer advertising campaign was $160.3 million and the 2012-13 winter advertising campaign was $167.1 million as was reported in FY2013. The average state return on investment is $3.70 and local return on investment is $2.56.
  • Strong national and state park visitation. In 2012, visitation to Utah’s Mighty Five™ national parks jumped 4% to reach a 30-year high at 6.5 million as was reported in FY2013. Out-of-state and international visitors are drawn to Utah by our national parks, and then discover our state parks. Visits to Utah’s 43 state parks also showed increases, up 5.6% in 2012 to 5 million. UOT has an integrated strategy to promote both national and state parks as marquee travel destinations.
  • Hotel occupancy rates continue to climb. Hotel/Motel occupancy was 65.1% in 2012, an increase from 2011 (62.7%).
  • TMPF co-operative marketing funds statewide projects. The Utah Board of Tourism Development approved 36 of 44 Co-operative Marketing applications in 2012 from non-profit entities around the state. This funded nearly $1.9 million in regional marketing strategies promoting Utah to out-of-state visitors.By law, the TMPF allocates 20% of the total fund each year to Co-operative Marketing. Since its inception in 2005, the program has provided $14.9 million to support 327         marketing campaigns around the state. With local match, expenditures have totaled $29.8 million. Funding has gone to local partners in 27 counties around the state, enabling large and small tourism partners to promote their specific destinations and events.
  • Utah’s ski experience receives #1 accolades. Ski Magazine awarded Park City Mountain Resort #1 for Easy Access, Alta #1 for Best Snow, Brighton #1 for Most Blue Sky Days, and Powder Mountain #1 for Best Value.
  • Utah’s signature hiking trails receive awards. National Geographic’s “Best of the Best” 20 Legendary Hikes ranked Arches Devil’s Garden Trail to Landscape Arch #3, Zion Narrows #11, and Canyonlands Elephant Hill to Druid Arch #16.
  • The Lone Ranger as a showcase for Utah’s landscapes. Disney’s The Lone Ranger was filmed in southern Utah in 2012 and released in theaters nationwide on July 3, 2013. The film highlights many of the iconic western landscapes in southern Utah. UOT partnered with Disney to generate a commercial featuring iconic Utah landscapes and scenes from The Lone Ranger. The ad was shown in theaters in Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas and was seen by an estimated 2.7 million theatergoers.
  • Strengthening Utah’s network of tourism partners. To more effectively engage tourism partners at destination marketing organizations and convention and visitors bureaus we have created two new advisory committees — Public Relations and International. Also, a Welcome Center Action Committee is developing a road map for improving Utah’s network of welcome centers. In all three committees, the initial meetings have created a lively dialog with partners as we share strategies and tactics to maximize our collective tourism marketing efforts.
  • Partnership with Brand USA for efficient international marketing. UOT has partnered with Brand USA to expand our international marketing. Brand USA is a public-private entity charged with marketing the United States as a premiere travel destination for international audiences. Through Brand USA’s joint media planning and buying, UOT receives a match of 20 cents to a dollar for every dollar spent on advertising. This generates greater international reach and impact. Additionally, we receive an in-kind monetary match when we contribute research, photography or video that Brand USA uses to promote U.S. travel.
  • Building Utah’s profile as an outdoor recreation destination. Utah’s world-class outdoor recreation opportunities run the spectrum from skiing The Greatest Snow on Earth® to descending the whitewater rapids of the Green River. Utah is an ideal playground for the rapidly growing numbers of outdoor enthusiasts. UOT is partnering with Brad Peterson, Director of Outdoor Recreation in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, to find synergistic relationships with tourism, outdoor recreation and Utah-based outdoor recreation businesses. This approach provides a win-win-win for business and travel, creating increased visitation to our outdoor playgrounds, most of which are located in rural areas of Utah.
  • Creating a robust Customer Relations Management (CRM) system. The Office of Tourisn is launching a strategy for communicating with our partners and customers on a consistent basis through email and other digital communications. The CRM will measure when and how we communicate with all constituents, and the actions that follow. This CRM system may also provide demographic and lifestyle information on their key customer bases (geography, household income, age, gender, magazines read, etc.) that allows them to create national and international travel stories that effectively tailor our advertising and communications for maximum efficacy.
  • Expanded media mix with National and international travel stories. We routinely pitch Utah travel stories to journalists and field media inquiries from national and international media outlets. In FY2013, our office conducted 84 international media and trade familiarization trips (FAMs) with 213 participants, generating 382 TV, radio and print articles in France, Germany and Japan. Domestically, we hosted 279 journalists on 82 FAM trips and generated 624 articles. Using conservative methodologies, this earned media coverage provided $26,372,182 advertising value equivalent (AVE) to the state.