Travel: Five questions with the Utah Office of Tourism

Utah expects to eventually welcome British Columbians as some of their first international visitors

Sandra Thomas Travel

I started my “Five questions with…” series more than two months ago with a plan to keep people thinking about travel amidst the fallout of COVID-19 — and in hopes of getting answers to questions about destinations that friends and family were already asking me.

As travel editor at the Vancouver Courier newspaper, a board member of the B.C. branch of the Travel Media Association of Canada, and a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, travel is a big part of my life, which meant I already had the contacts in place to get started.

Now with some destinations looking to slowly reopen, and, in an effort to catch a glimpse of future travel trends, I’m continuing to reach out to travel experts and tourism bureaus across Canada and the globe for answers to five similar questions.

And while no one can predict the future, all are hopeful travel will soon resume. But, how exactly that will look is anyone’s guess.

If you are part of a destination management organization or represent a property and want to share your thoughts, please drop me a line at

Road trippers will enjoy Scenic Byway 12 between Escalante and Bolder, Utah. Photo Larry C Price

Five questions with Celina Sinclair, Global Markets Specialist, Utah Office of Tourism.

How do you measure tourism numbers for your destination?

The Utah Office of Tourism measures tourism numbers to Utah in several ways, including visitation to our Mighty 5® national parks and 44 state parks, visitor spending, visitor profile reports for domestic travel and Tourism Economics for international travel.

Star gazing in Goblin Valley, Utah. Photo Austen Diamond Photography

How has COVID-19 impacted tourism in your region?

Like the rest of the world, tourism came to a halt in Utah. The Utah Leads Together Plan helped to mitigate the unavoidable economic impact of COVID-19 through a phased reactivation of Utah’s economy guided by vigilance, data-informed decisions, respect for geographic differences, care for the vulnerable and new protocols for safety.

The Utah Office of Tourism has been supporting our tourism businesses and local communities so they will still be there when it comes time to welcome Canadians and other visitors back to our destination.

The stories of support have ranged from Utah resident and bar owner Ty Burrell (who played Phil Dunphy on Modern Family) donating to support local hospitality workers to Ski Utah contributing to ‘Goggles for Docs’ to provide health care workers with ski goggles as a form of eye protection while fighting COVID-19.

Goblin Valley, Utah. Photo Angie Payne

Do you believe the virus has changed the way people are looking at travel?

The pandemic has changed the way we view travel, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

We are optimistic that when the time is right to travel again, visitors to Utah will approach travel with a new level of planning, a mindful and localized approach, and a desire to travel responsibly.

Travelling responsibly means planning ahead. Reading ahead. Slowing down when possible and stopping to fully appreciate all that is around you, whether you’re travelling alone or with friends and family.

For some, it can mean giving back. Becoming ambassadors of place. And coming back to Utah year after year.

Bear Lake, Utah. Photo Marc Piscotty

What does the future hold for your destination and when do you think it will be welcoming visitors once again?

It’s too soon to say when we will be welcoming International visitors to Utah again, especially at the pre-pandemic levels that sustained and grew our thriving tourism economy.

We want to be mindful of the fact that everyone is in a different stage and experiencing this pandemic in a different way.

We hope that as people emerge from indoors they will seek the openness and soul-awakening adventure that Utah’s vast landscapes have to offer. Utahns have innovated and shown creativity within constraints throughout the crisis and we fully expect our tourism industry to step up to the challenge of welcoming back our visitors when the time is right.

Skiing at Brian Head, Utah. Photo Adam Clark

The Greatest Snow on Earth® will still fall on Utah’s mountains at our 15 ski resorts and together with the red rock landscapes of our Mighty 5® national parks as well as 44 state parks, Utah’s diverse landscapes will beckon visitors, including British Columbians, to visit Utah once again be it for ski season next winter or for that epic family road trip.

What travel trends do you predict for later this year and 2021?

If we could summarize what we predict for travel once it resumes it’s, “pent-up demand meets aspiration.”

As Utah slowly re-opens, we are starting to see local Utahns take full advantage of the “embarrassment of riches” in our own backyard.

We then expect the regional drive markets will look to Utah for that change of scenery they are craving because few destinations match the diversity of landscapes that Utah offers.

Temples of the Sun and Moon in Cathedral Valley, Utah. Photo Tom Till

We also anticipate Canadians — British Columbians and Albertans in particular, especially those who travel by RV — will be the first international visitors to return to Utah when the Canada-U.S. border re-opens.

With a new openness and appreciation for details, our visitors might be more inclined to hire a guide, engage with Utah’s natural and human history, and take the time to better understand the communities at the core of the state’s unique offerings. And these travellers will seek experiences that shape lasting memories.

We expect people to seek out wellness experiences that bridge healing and adventure, whether that’s camping at Northern Utah’s Bear Lake (nicknamed “the Caribbean of the Rockies”), stargazing at one of nearly 20 internationally accredited dark sky parks and communities (more than any destination in the world!) or just walking toward the liminal horizon of the Great Salt Lake.

The Bonneville Salt Flats in Tooele County, Utah. Photo Marc Piscotty_0031

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.

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