Rachel Bremer, Global Travel Trade & Destination Development Manager, Utah Office of Tourism and Film speaks about the pandemic impact, tweaking strategies and film tourism opportunities.
One of the novel entrants, Utah, a state in the western USA is aggressively looking to harness the potential of Indian outbound. The destination earlier this year has appointed IndiJo as its representative in India market and has been increasing its brand awareness alongside forging partnership with the travel trade.
What is the magnitude of the impact that you are witnessing globally and from India market during the coronavirus pandemic?
As with other destinations, the global impact of the pandemic has negatively impacted Utah’s visitor economy. Global flight restrictions and border closures led to a very abrupt halt of Utah’s visitor economy in the spring, although, in some areas in the state, including National Park gateway areas, we have been able to partially rehabilitate the local economies due to lost International visitation with domestic/regional visitors. Focusing on this domestic visitation has helped us to rebuild and gain market share. Comparatively, our visitor volume over the prior year is down 32 per cent while the Western US is down 52 per cent and the US is down 44 per cent collectively.
And although we are not welcoming International visitors right now, we have maintained our brand presence, and stayed engaged and supportive of the industry. We know that what we do now impacts travel a year from now, and beyond. Rehabilitating the industry will not only help our travel trade partners in markets such as India but also gain market share.
Our forecasting data for our core/markets of focus via Tourism Economics, (Oxford Economics) reflects a small recovery in 2021, (by spring of 2021), with slowed growth through 2023, and a 6.2 per cent projected growth from 2019 to 2024. Much of this growth is led by our Asian markets including India.
How prepared is your destination to restart tourism post coronavirus issue? Have you come up with a new SOP of guidelines for the industry?
Our Utah Office of Tourism team has held stakeholder webinars on industry best practices/visitor readiness, with tools, resources, and guidelines for the industry. The Utah Office of Tourism is a department with the Governor's Office of Economic Development. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development launched a ‘Safe IN Utah’ grant, extended to local businesses to support and respond to new industry standards. This grant provides businesses with the purchase of personal protective equipment, (PPE), implementation of workplace redesigns, new technologies, and other public health guidelines for the industry.
How are you tweaking your marketing strategy to attract visitors post the pandemic? Also, how is the destination working to instill confidence in travellers?
We have revised our messaging strategy to support inspirational messaging, while also supporting responsible tourism stewardship, and responsible recovery of Utah. We often hear visitors share experiences of the healing power of Utah, and it’s that special, quiet power that we expect will call to people even more in the future, and that lends itself perfectly to long-awaited travel experiences rooted in wellness.
The pandemic will lead to many people looking for a destination that offers respite, and scenic beauty, which is what they will find in Utah.
As a general opinion, long-haul markets will be the last ones to get back the normal business, your take on this? Also, will India be one of the top priority markets for you post the pandemic?
Long-haul markets will indeed have a slower recovery for Utah, although, despite this, it is important we continue to invest in our long-haul markets. We see a higher spend per visitor and a longer length of stay from our long-haul markets and remain vital to Utah’s recovery.
India will remain a market of focus alongside our other top inbound source markets including Canada, China, UK, France, Germany, and Australia.
What will be the upcoming trend in long haul tourism? Do you see an opportunity for slow tourism, which will in turn increase the length of stay?
We do see an opportunity for slow-tourism, which works well for Utah. We are a road-tripping state, and a large state, best enjoyed taking your time. We have 5 National Parks, (known as the Mighty 5), and 44 State Parks, (many of which could be National Parks), but, that is only the beginning. We are also home to The Greatest Snow on Earth, with 15 ski resorts and 10 within an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City International Airport, we are a true year-round slow-tourism destination.
How are you engaging with the travel trade fraternity in India?
Working with Indijo Consulting, and via Brand USA partner opportunities, we have hosted several webinars to train and engage with the industry. We are meeting with operators and DMC’s to develop product, create new itineraries, and forge partnerships. We are fairly new to the market, but I am optimistic that with the right messaging, partnerships, and education we can increase visitation and visitor spending from India.
Are you looking at film tourism from India market? Do you have any specific incentive programme?
We are looking at film tourism for India. Park City is home to the Sundance Film Festival, and Utah has a rich film history including Forrest Gump, Star Wars, Independence Day, Indiana Jones, High School Musical, West World, and many more. We have developed film tourism itineraries and inspiring film tourism content. We work alongside the Utah Film Commission to engage with the film industry and refer production companies to their team for film incentive opportunities.