Jaylyn Hawks

I have finally come home. I grew up on the Wasatch Front, and I’ve lived in several Utah communities including Payson, Provo, Paradise and Logan. I’ve resided in scattered places around the country, from Raleigh, North Carolina to Tucson, Arizona. After appreciating all of these areas, and the life experiences that came with them, I’ve finally made it to the community that is truly my “home.”

We all have our own reasons for choosing Moab as our home, but I suspect the common thread is the quality of life. Sadly, the quality of life is also the reason many are contemplating leaving this place we call home.

Our Moab Area Travel Council Advisory Board and the Moab Area Travel Council staff have been extremely successful at promoting our beautiful area to the rest of the country and to the whole world. We host roughly 2.5 million visitors annually from all over the globe, and you are not alone if you feel that our lands, infrastructure and communities are beyond capacity.

Continued advertising at the current level is detrimental to quality of life for our residents. Simply stated: More advertising means more tourists, which leads to stressing our lands and infrastructure to the breaking point. This unfortunately also necessitates more hotels and overnight rentals — which requires more employees working for unlivable wage jobs, competing for already scarce affordable housing — perpetuating a never-ending cycle.

Addressing these issues requires approaching them with two main strategies.

First, dollars spent on promoting our area as a recreation destination need to be re-directed to include advertising which fulfills the statutory requirements outlined in state code and at the same time delineates an educational component that will help visitors understand how to take care of the resources that we are privileged to have in our midst.

We can begin working on this right now; there is no need to wait for the next legislative session.

Secondly, the statutorily defined formula for the allocation of how the Transient Room Tax (TRT) monies are spent needs to change.

In a mature tourist economy such as ours, the mandate to spend nearly half of TRT funds on promotion is counterproductive, damaging to the environment, destructive to our quality of life, devalues the visitor’s experience and is unnecessary. That formula needs to change and it will take a legislative mandate to alter it.

Grand County Council member Curtis Wells used an apt analogy during a recent meeting to describe the problems associated with increasing tourism in a fifth-class county, such as Grand, that is not equipped in terms of budget and infrastructure to support the volume. He likened it to an individual with the bone and muscle structure designed to support a 200-pound frame being asked to carry a burden two or three times larger.

A bill at the recent legislative session had the potential to restructure the way the TRT is both allocated and spent (H.B. 367). Rather than mandating that nearly half of the county’s TRT allocation be spent on tourism promotion, that amount would decrease to one-third and two-thirds would be used to mitigate impacts of tourism. Up to this point, the percentages of allocation between promotion and mitigation remain unchanged.

We need to begin lobbying for change at the upcoming legislative session. I believe our senator and our representatives on the Hill are ready to listen to, and act on, a unified message from the travel council, Grand County Council, Moab City Council and the residents.

Meanwhile, here are three things that, as citizens and stewards of Grand County, you can do:

Be a voice for positive change. Rather than attacking the travel council for fulfilling their statutory mandate, provide them with positive feedback and constructive suggestions for new, creative direction.

Support legislative efforts to change the statutorily defined formula. We no longer need to spend as much on promotion.

Consider applying for a position on the travel council’s advisory board. At the time of this writing, there is one (possibly two) vacant seats and there will be three at the end of the year.

The board and the community will benefit from individuals with the ability to think outside of the box on solutions to fulfill the state requirements, while working to preserve the stunning landscape and improve the quality of life that brought many of us here and encouraged so many of us to stay.

“I believe our senator and our representatives on the Hill are ready to listen to, and act on, a unified message from the travel council, Grand County Council, Moab City Council and the residents.”