ECBC Lunch and Learn discusses tourism
The Emery County Business Chamber held their November Lunch and Learn in Green River. Jay Kinghorn from the Utah Office of Tourism was the guest speaker. Amy Wilmarth from the Green River Coffee Company was the business spotlight. Wilmarth said the business has been open since 2004 and she's been the owner since 2007. She said it's often hard to retain employees in Green River, because the school age kids move on, but she has Kimberly now and she's been a great employee for the business. Kimberly also operates a nail business called Kim's nails.
The Green River Coffee Shop offers a wide variety of coffees, teas, cocoa and drinks. They have a lunch and breakfast menu and a great selection of ice cream flavors along with shakes. They feature a soda fountain and a gift shop and free internet access. In March-November the business opens at 6:30 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m. The winter time hours are much shorter. After the morning coffee drinkers have come and gone, the business will close for the day.
Wilmarth said they will do catering for your event. She has served meals at various events around Green River. The business is located at 25 East Main.
Wilmarth said she serves Green River melon along with every sandwich when the melons are in season.
She is a member of the Green River potluck group which is a business owners association to help Green River grow. She is a member of the planning commission and the medical center board. She is a long-time EMT and is on call with the ambulance most of the time. She teaches CPR. "I love Green River and I love living here," said Wilmarth.
Jared Anderson, board member announced the Shop Local campaign. You can enter at several locations around the county, Randy's Service in Emery, Melon Vine in Green River, Food Ranch in Orangeville, Cindi's in Cleveland, Hometown in Huntington, Stewarts Market in Castle Dale, Main Street Market in Ferron. All you need to do to enter is put your name and address on a receipt from any Emery County business. Drop the entry at one of the locations. You can enter as many times as you wish.
Anderson spoke about how shopping local keeps tax dollars in your community. For every $100 spent locally about $45 comes back into your community. For every $100 spent in a big box store outside the county, zero dollars come back into your community and $13 will come back into the county where the store is located. Traveling north costs money. These travel expenses add up quickly.
Prizes for the Shop Local campaign will be given out at the January and March lunch and learns for 2014. Prizes will include: $300 gift certificate to Earl's Furniture and Appliance donated by Earl's and the Emery County Progress; gift certificates to Ace Hardware and Magnuson Lumber, Emery County Bucks. A Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, 7 inch tablet will be donated by Emery Telcom.
Jay Kinghorn from the Utah Office of Tourism was the guest speaker. He spoke about tourism. Visitors want and need gas, lodging and entertainment. Different things are important to different types of tourists.
Tourism is a big economic factor in Utah. There were 23.5 million visitors to Utah last year. A visitor is someone who travels more than 50 miles. Utah tourism is very diverse. There are opportunities for skiing, snowmobiling, bouldering, fishing, camping, hiking, biking and many more. Utah has everything. State parks, National Parks and many wonderful resources. Tourism brought in $969 million to state and local governments. Tourism funds 15 percent of the states education fund. Tourists come and visit and then go home and it's considered a clean industry. You also don't have to educate their children. They return home. Tourism jobs number 140,000 statewide. In the 29 counties, Emery County ranks 27 in tourism employment. Emery isn't considered a gateway county for tourism. The state is working on funding for non-gateway communities.
There are matching funds available for advertising to out-of-state visitors. Emery County Travel Bureau has received these funds. The money budgeted for tourism by the legislature will run out in 2015. The legislature is being approached to keep these funds going into the future.
The Office of Tourism is looking for new ways to use social media to promote Utah. There have been a number of 30 second spot commercials broadcast around the nation. The social media opens up new avenues to share the story of Utah and its counties.
One new target is international bookings and tours. They are advertising in China, United Kingdom and Australia to encourage more tour buses to Utah.
One problem is welcome centers, they could be more helpful in getting information out. When the National Parks were shut down a campaign was put together quickly to let visitors to Utah know what else was available. Many displaced visitors went to the state parks and other attractions.
The state sponsors a number of trips for photojournalists and national magazines to come in and spotlight destinations in Utah.
Kinghorn said they have recently hired a new public relations firm, Turner from Denver. Most of the people at the prior company used back east hadn't been to Utah. The new firm knows the tourism opportunities that exist here.
Kinghorn encouraged the Emery County residents to use the social media to tell the stories of our area and opportunities for recreation that exist here, tell about the skiing, mountain biking, hiking, everything can be spotlighted on social media and the stories will help promote our state.
Gov. Herbert is encouraging everyone to get involved in the Life Elevated campaign. When dealing with visitors make sure you're a proper host and help the visitors to feel welcome here.
Utah has many challenges for tourism, we compete with surrounding states. Utah doesn't have a lot of recognition. In survey's when someone out of state is shown a picture of the Salt Lake skyline, it's often identified as Denver. Utah is also known for friendly, intelligent people and that's the reality the state wants to promote. "We want people to know that's Salt Lake, we want them to know there are 11 ski resorts within one hour of the airport," said Kinghorn.
Another challenge is the tourism promotion budget, one ski resort in Colorado has as much advertising budget as all the Utah ski resorts combined.
Denver has more direct air flights from overseas into their airport than Salt Lake, this is also a challenge in getting out of the country visitors here.
When gas prices are high, it's a challenge and visitors stay closer to home.
Rural economic development can be realized with tourism. This effort must be from the ground up in the communities. The state is a partner, but the effort must come from the locals.
Kinghorn encouraged everyone to apply for the cooperative funding. Identify areas to target to bring out of state visitors into the county.
Kinghorn said to send great scenery photographs to them at the state and they will put them on their website to help promote the area.
The state is working to expand their website and they need new content to promote the attractions.
Another new aspect of the website will be nowplaying Utah this will advertise the arts and any activities and festivals that are going on throughout the state.
The state website can also rebroadcast locally produced videos on the area.
Gov. Herbert is doing a number of radio spots to promote Utah.
Kinghorn opened the meeting for questions and Cathy Gardner asked how Green River can become a gateway city. Green River is the first town you come into from Colorado. How can Green River draw people off the freeway to stay a day or two. Kinghorn recommended the local businesses be listed on trip advisor pages where reviews can be made by prior customers. These referrals can be very helpful in guiding visitors to your business. If someone driving through can find a review with a recommendation they are more likely to stop and visit.
The local TV channel six is also available to promote the attractions in the area. The hotel workers in Moab are trained to have the TV come onto channel six so that's the first thing the visitor sees when they turn on the television. You need to let people know what there is to do here.
Gardner said when the national parks were closed they had three tour buses come through.
With more than 600 motel rooms, Green River can accommodate large groups of visitors. Green River is well positioned for pass through traffic, but needs to draw more visitors to spend some extra time in the area.
Keith Brady talked about the rack cards that promote different attractions in the area with specific maps and travel instructions with estimated travel times. These cards are posted at rest areas around the region as well as local businesses.
The area needs more signs and billboards advertising what's here as well. People need to be brought into town with advertisements of what's available in downtown Green River.
Kinghorn also encouraged the businesses to use coupons and special deals/offers to promote their business. These coupons bring in more revenue to a business, by getting people into your business.
Utah has come a long way in working to attract people to the state, there's more to be done and everyone needs to get involved to bring visitors here to experience the recreational opportunities available in our state.