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Keith McCord ReportingThe convention business in Salt Lake is a huge industry; visitors spend hundreds of millions of dollars while they're here. But the competition with other cities is getting fierce, and recent events around the world are also creating some challenges. The city has a strategy to keep the visitors coming back.
Basically to tell convention planners that Salt Lake, and Utah as a whole, has what no other area has. And the convention and visitors bureau is starting to drive that message coast to coast.
And that message sells well whenever representatives from the Salt Lake's convention industry meet to entice large groups to come here. The message received a nice boost after the Olympics, of course and now the key is to keep the buzz going! And so far, so good.
Dianne Binger, Pres/CEO, SL Convention & Visitors Bureau: "We're actually doing a lot better than many of our competitors. It's been a very very tough time since 9-11, with terrorist attacks, the economy, the SARS outbreak, and war with Iraq. Many destinations have really suffered."
The outlook is good for 2004 in Salt Lake. Convention visitors are projected to spend about 240-million dollars while they're here, on par with the current year. Big dollars that convention planners all over the country hope to attract by offering all kinds of incentives.
For example, meeting planners looking at Salt Lake will hear about ski package deals where one ticket is good for more than one resort. Another promotion created to show how close the airport is to the slopes, is called "From Runway to Runs". Out of state skiers can exchange their airline boarding pass for a free lift ticket the day they arrive.
Convention planners here say they've noticed one trend that has changed dramatically, that groups are not as willing to plan so far in advance. In the past, an organization would book a convention in Salt Lake three to five, even 10 years down the road. Now it's one to two years.
Dianne Binger, Pres/CEO, SL Convention & Visitors Bureau: "People are almost paralyzed. They're not sure about the economy. They've got some challenges within their own industry. And they are not exactly sure what's happening, so they put a lot of their decisions on hold."
Even though Salt Lake is seeing an up-tick in business, the folks at the convention and Visitors Bureau still must hustle to bring groups here. Next week they're heading to New York to meet with hundreds of meeting planners, hoping to entice them to hold their next big meeting in Salt Lake.