By: Jennifer Leaver
Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.
Pioneer Day weekend is here, but with less fanfare that years past. Due to COVID-19, Days of ’47 parades, rodeos, fireworks, and other holiday activities in cities and towns across Utah have been cancelled and postponed until 2021. Now, halfway through summer, the pandemic’s effects on Utah’s tourism economy are emerging from the data. Utah’s tourism economy has been on an upward recovery since April in the areas of visitation, employment, and hotel occupancy.
Visitation data for the first half of 2020 (Jan-May) reflects national and state park closure differences. In mid-March, Utah’s national parks began closing their visitor centers, shuttles, scenic drives, campgrounds, and trails, with a phased re-opening beginning in early May. In contrast, Utah’s state parks experienced less disruption—and even a year-over-year boost in visitation—by closing to non-county visitors for two weeks in April. In fact, while year-over-year national park visitation was down 62.4% during the first five months of 2020, state park visitation was up 11.4%. It appears that Utahns and other domestic travelers have been venturing outdoors despite the pandemic and have been taking advantage of Utah’s ample outdoor recreation opportunities.<