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State leaders trying to mitigate coronavirus impact on tourism
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State leaders trying to mitigate coronavirus impact on tourism

(Hundreds gather under Capitol rotunda for Tourism Day. Credit: Paul Nelson)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – How can the state keep $9.75 billion tourism industry healthy in Utah while the coronavirus is having a bad effect on travel?  State leaders say they’ve already seen the coronavirus impact on tourism, and they’re trying to prevent the virus from keeping people away.

There is only one confirmed case of the coronavirus in Utah, and that man is being quarantined and treated at Intermountain Hospital.  However, even though there isn’t any proof of an outbreak in the Beehive State, the coronavirus has already had a negative impact on the number of people visiting.

Utah Office of Tourism Executive Director Vicki Varela says, “Conferences are being cancelled.  Trips are being cancelled.  We just measure how much [impact the virus has].”

Wednesday was “Tourism Day” at the Capitol Rotunda.  Travel and tourism agencies from all over the state were there to promote their destinations.  State workers in several different offices will be paying close attention to the spread of the illness and its effect on tourism.  Governor Gary Herbert says people all over the country are unsure what to do and where to go.

Herbert says, “The uncertainty of it, right now, is really going to stop people from coming.  So, we’re going to have to see what happens over the next six months, but it’s certainly not going to be a positive thing in the standpoint of tourism and travel.”

Herbert calls tourism money “clean dollars” since they provide a lot of tax relief to the average Utahn.  He says the average household would have to pay roughly $12 hundred more in taxes every year without tourist money.  So, the state wants to protect and boost those funds as much as they can.

However, there could be a positive outcome over these public health concerns.  Herbert says they could promote the state to other cities across the U.S. if people don’t want to travel overseas.

“We’ll probably have people from America want to come here.  They’re concerned about traveling outside of our borders, so they’ll say, ‘Where can we travel inside America.  Hey, Utah!  Five national parks, 43 state parks and wonderful, friendly people,” Herbert says.

Will state workers cancel international travel over coronavirus concerns?  Herbert can’t say if that will happen with any degree of certainty.  However, trips can be cancelled if the need arises.

He says, “We don’t want to stop doing what we’re doing because we’re very successful in international trade.”


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