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Utah sees positive tourism outlook for 2010

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Office of Tourism received some very encouraging news Thursday about how money spent to advertise the state has paid off.

In 2009, Utah saw good results from money spent on national TV ads. Despite the economy, Utah's tourism industry did well.

There was a slight drop in the average amount of money that visitors spent on their vacations: $870 per trip in '09 compared to $1,095 in 2008. But that was offset by the fact that more people came here. When the numbers were crunched, visitors spent about $705 million in Utah last year.

It's long been a fact that when snowfall images in Utah are seen on the TV networks, tourists from all over the country start contacting tourism officials requesting vacation information. That's even true when "fake" snowflakes of the tourism office's commercials start falling.

The office recently started re-airing the humorous snowflake ads that originally debuted in 2008. They feature humans dressed up in snowflake costumes expressing their joy that they get to fall in Utah, and they're a big hit again.

Leigh von der Esch, executive director of the Utah Office of Tourism, tells KSL News, "I got an e-mail this morning from my competitor in Pennsylvania, the tourism director, saying I love the snowflake ads. We are getting e-mail from all over the country that people love them."

As a result, they want to know more about what Utah has to offer.

Von der Esch says in the first 48 hours after the spots started running on various national cable channel, there was a 300 percent increase in requests for travel guides and ski planners.

The Utah Office of Tourism has spent a significant amount of money on national TV ads, and research about this strategy shows that it's working well.

Denise Miller, the Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Research Inc, based in Carmel, Indiana analyzes tourist travel data in 20 states. She says Utah's marketing has worked very well.

"It's one of the most efficient that we see, in terms of the dollar to reach the consumer, the return on investment," Miller says. "It's just been very well done, and as a result, [it'] seeing really good results."

Miller says Utah is fortunate because we have a great product to market: winter or summer, there's an incredible variety at a great value. The state has made that clear in its marketing efforts.

"That's what people are looking for," Miller says. "Not just we're cheap, but we're a value because there's so much you can do once you get here."

Von der Esch says now the challenge is entice visitors to return to Utah.

"Repeat customers, which is what we're looking for this next year, are very important. And I think we're going to see a lot of people coming back again and again because of what we've been doing," von der Esch says.

The office of tourism also targeted some specific markets in some of its advertising, and found that phoenix really responded well last year.


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Keith McCord


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