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Researchers: Electronics may lessen people's interest in great outdoors

Researchers: Electronics may lessen people's interest in great outdoors



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Is the TV making people lose interest in seeing the outdoors? Some researchers say "yes."

Have you seen Wall-E? In it, humans never look past their small TV screens just a few inches in front of their faces. Utah State Parks Public Affairs Coordinator Deena Loyola says some people are doing that already.

"Utah State Parks is really making an effort to reach out to those who may not be connecting with the outdoors, and we have a few programs doing that. But I certainly think so, I think people are staying at home with their television [or] with their iPod," she said.

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says there has been a decline in outdoor activities in the U.S. and Japan since the early 1980s, when video games hit the scene. Loyola says they've seen between 15 percent and 19 percent fewer visitors to the state parks this year from last year, but video games and television are not the only reason why.

"We had a very late spring, so that certainly impacted the first [part] of the season," she said.

The cold and wet spring hurt the golf visitation at Wasatch Mountain, and it delayed the boating season. But visits to the state parks are going back to a normal level.

"May and June were very comparable to 2007, but the early spring months were much lower. We're still making up a difference right now," Loyola said.

But, the people who are visiting are staying longer. As for the national parks, visits to Zion National Park are down, but Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef are all seeing an upward trend.

Utah Office of Tourism Managing Director Leigh von der Esch said, "We're about 2 percent up on this season [overall] which I think speaks really well."

Von der Esch says an aggressive ad campaign has kept the visitors coming.

"We're showing a return on effectiveness of about $17 to one in terms of the ROI, return on investment," she said.

In the southern part of the state, Europeans are making up any difference in any downward trend in tourists.

"The Europeans love the John Wayne western scenery. They love what they saw on the silver screen," Von der Esch said.

Von der Esch says more than 80 percent of the tourists in Utah come from 11 surrounding states.

E-mail: pnelson@ksl.com

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Paul Nelson

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