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Report ranks Temple Square 16th for tourist attractions



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Forbes Traveler ranks Temple Square the 16th Most Visited Tourist Attraction in the United States, and that means a steady stream of visitors regardless of the economy.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cannot track exact numbers, but people visit year-round and keep coming back. Thursday was the 10th visit for Joann Feehan, who lives in Kansas. "[I'm] enjoying the flowers. The people are friendly, but most of our time is at the library," she said.

Leigh von der Esch, director of the Utah Office of Tourism and Film, said, "Temple Square is recession proof. I think it will always attract people that are coming into the state."

Ginger Dixon of Florida anticipated a visit for years. "When I was a young child, my parents brought me here. For some reason it stayed in my mind all these years, and I wanted to see it as an adult," she said.

Here's one of the highlights from last year's numbers: Tourism from China grew 63 percent; 29,000 visitors from mainland China came to Salt Lake.

"Temple Square attracts a wide variety of people. We have international visitors all the time, daily," von der Esch said.

Across the street, City Creek Center is on schedule with secure funding. It brings retail into the downtown core with two department store anchors, smaller shops and restaurants.

"The visitor has not only the hotel and convention center, a big tourist site like Temple Square, but has a place to spend some money," said Natalie Gochnour, of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.

The Food Court opens in a few months, and later this year residents will move into condos. "It will bring more life to the streets," Gochnour said.

With dozens of other projects in progress, The Chamber estimates $1.6 million is being spent every day downtown. Yet, Temple Square is undisturbed by the chaos of progress.

"[It's] a very peaceful place that has the serenity that people are looking for today," von der Esch said.

The No. 1 U.S. attraction is Times Square, with more than 37 annual visitors.

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Story compiled with contributions from Jed Boal and Adam Thomas.

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