Tourism Plays Significant Role in Rural Utah’s Economy

Although tourism is important to Utah’s economy as a whole, it is especially important to the economies of rural, less-populated counties across the state, according to new research released by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR).

“Rural Utah is characterized by a large portion of publicly owned land, abundant outdoor recreation opportunities, and smaller population bases,” said BEBR research analyst Jennifer Leaver. “This combination of factors makes these areas more economically dependent on tourism,” she added.

The Wasatch Front continues to dominate in terms of tourism sales, county sales tax revenues, and jobs; however, compared to rural areas, tourism accounts for a smaller share of the Wasatch Front’s economy.

“The major take-away from this study is even though tourism spending and tax revenue are both higher along the Wasatch Front, tourism plays a far more significant comparative role in Utah’s rural economies,” said Natalie Gochnour, associate dean at the David Eccles School of Business. “The tourism industry supports Utah’s rural economy in a significant way.”

For example, in rural Utah in 2013, an estimated 46 percent of total county sales tax revenue was tourism-related compared to just 20 percent along the Wasatch Front. In fact, the top 10 counties impacted by tourism-related sales tax revenues were all rural counties.

In addition, tourism supports many jobs throughout the state. One out of every 10 jobs in Utah can be attributed to tourism, directly or indirectly. However, rural counties are once again most impacted by the industry. In these counties, an estimated 13 percent of private jobs are directly tourism-supported, compared to just 5 percent in the more urban parts of the state.

Although tourism impacts rural Utah much more significantly, it still plays a large role throughout the state. In economic terms, the tourism industry in 2013 was Utah’s second largest export with $6.4 billion in nonresident visitor spending. That year the state set a record high of $7.5 billion in total traveler spending, according to travel research firm TNS Global.

The report is available here.

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