It’s official — the Moab Area Travel Council has done an outstanding job. Due largely to the Moab Area Travel Council and State of Utah promotions, 1.5 million visitors are touring Arches National Park annually, up 50 percent since 2010. The Moab Area Travel Council also advertises in large metro markets, such as Los Angeles, to lure visitors to Grand County during winter’s “off season” months. And recently the Moab Area Travel Council launched a big flashy ad campaign at Denver International Airport to entice more travelers to fly to Moab for thrills and adventure. It never stops. More tourists. More hotels. More nightly rentals.
Have we ever considered what’s enough?
The Moab Area Travel Council spent $2.37 million on “national promotions” in 2017, according to the Grand County budget, and is slated to spend a similar amount in 2018. Yikes. These expenditures are funded by Grand County’s Transient Room Tax (TRT) revenues. The Utah Code requires a significant portion of the TRT money be spent on “establishing and promoting recreation, tourism, film production and conventions,” rather than mitigating impacts of tourism. However, there’s still flexibility for this chunk of the TRT money, and there is clearly no requirement that $2.37 million be spent on out-of-state national promotions to bring more tourists to Moab.
The good news is that Grand County Council has the authority to direct how the Moab Area Travel Council spends its $2.4 million allocation of the TRT revenue. Rather than paying advertising firms in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City or Denver for promotions aimed at drawing more tourists to Grand County, the Moab Area Travel Council could use most of its TRT money for locally-created advertising campaigns, to educate visitors on how to recreate responsibly to not destroy the landscape they came here to see in the first place. It’s a win-win. More TRT revenue would stay in Grand County, paying local businesses and their employees for the “local” advertising and education materials, rather than going to out-of-state advertising agencies, and tourists would be better informed on recreating responsibly. What’s not to like about that?