Tourism was second to mining as Moab’s economic driver when Marian DeLay moved to Moab in 1979. That changed when the uranium boom ended and tourism became Moab’s primary industry.
“Mining has gone away and tourism filled its place, with new hotels, guides, and the onset of the popularity of mountain biking,” as well as road bicycling and sky-diving – adding to the already popular off-road Jeep and river-rafting pastimes, said DeLay, executive director of the Moab Area Travel Council.
Delay will retire from her job on Friday, July 31, after nearly 20 years promoting the Moab area to visitors far and wide. The new executive director, Elaine Gizler, will take over the marketing of Moab on Monday, August 3.
While Moab’s population size hasn’t changed much in the past two decades, businesses have evolved to include more resorts, bed and breakfast lodgings, and tour companies – all of which depend on the travel council to bring in new customers, DeLay said.
“They need to have the business and we want to meet their needs,” DeLay said. “At the same time, (natural) resources need protection,” as growth means more construction, and new housing to support the staff of those businesses.
Improving visitors’ experience is an important part of the travel council’s mission – which means ensuring that tourists receive all the information available regarding the multitude of activities in the area, and places to visit – “so they don’t miss out on things,” DeLay said.
“We find out their interests, so we know how to steer them,” she added.
In 1995, Grand County reported Moab visitation at 1.5 million visitors per year. That number has almost doubled under Delay’s tenure, to 2.5 million tourists each year, said Ruth Dillon, Grand County Council Administrator, and supervisor of the travel council position.
While the state of Utah contributed to that increase with its “Mighty Five Campaign” of marketing Utah’s five national parks, DeLay made sure to spend additional marketing dollars in other, new markets, Dillon said.
She’s also been involved legislatively, working on returning to the county the responsibility of collecting transient room taxes. Currently the state collects the taxes, and not as effectively as what the county could do, Dillon said.
DeLay has worked with several other tourism directors on congestion issues, and has served on several local and state boards, including as president of the Utah Tourism Industry Association.
Under DeLay’s watch, Moab has experienced a positive “return on investment,” in terms of money spent on promoting the area, DeLay said.
“For every dollar spent on tourism marketing, the return to the community is $24,” Dillon said. “That’s a big accomplishment.”
DeLay said her office also educates visitors on the importance of being “good ambassadors” by respecting and protecting Moab’s natural resources.
Overseeing tourism, travel, recreation and convention activities,” while protecting natural resources, is a huge job, Dillon said.
DeLay has done a “beautiful job with brand development of the area; the county did not expect to find her replacement so quickly,” Dillon said.
“Elaine has a strong background in marketing – that’s what we were looking for,” Dillon said. “It was unanimous by a committee of five.”
Gizler is co-founder and CEO of EN V Consulting, where she has worked at brand development in the beauty industry. A partner on the East Coast runs the company and most of the business is handled in New York and New Jersey, said Gizler, who retains part ownership as an investor.
Although she hasn’t officially started her new job, Gizler has already attended meetings and become acquainted with the staff members she will be supervising.
Gizler moved to Moab six years ago from Salt Lake City where she worked for a beauty and skin care company that did business throughout North America and in Europe. Before that, she worked for a Pittsburgh company and often traveled overseas for marketing purposes.
During her work with clients worldwide, Gizler said she would often talk about Utah – its beauty and all the area has to offer. Moab’s abundance of nearby state and national parks is unusual, she said, and she wants to see more young people discover Moab.
“Utah is captivating – I particularly love Moab,” she said. “I want to make people around the world know this is here.”
Gizler lives with her husband John and mother-in-law, and two long-haired dachshunds.
As for DeLay, she’s often asked what her plans are now that she’s leaving her job.
“My real plan is to retire,” she said. “I will take time to let that sink in. I have a major garden in the yard. There’s fishing I want to do; stuff around Utah.”
And, there’s grown children in Washington state and Maryland to visit.
“Sometime in the next five years I hope to do volunteer work that takes me across the country,” DeLay said. “I hope to work at Shriners Hospitals as I’m traveling to see our children. I want to take a vacation that’s about what I can give – that’s one of my goals.
“One of the most important things I want to mention is that I have met and worked with so many wonderful people in this community; it’s appreciated,” Delay said.
There will be a retirement party for DeLay, which is open to the public, from 2 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 29 at Grand County Council Chambers, 125 E. Center St.
New director, Elaine Gizler, starts Aug 3
“Sometime in the next five years I hope to do volunteer work that takes me across the country. I hope to work at Shriners Hospitals as I’m traveling to see our children. I want to take a vacation that’s about what I can give – that’s one of my goals.”
When: Wednesday, July 29, 2 to 4 p.m.
Where: Grand County Council Chambers, 125 E. Center St.
Cost: Free and open to the public