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Photo of Downtown Helper
Take a walk down Helper's Main Street. Discover the arts, recreation and a reimagined community in Visit Utah's upcoming Explorer's Guide and online. Photo by Austen Diamond


It’s a silver linings season with Utah’s national parks. While chaos continues in Washington, D.C., Utahns are hard at work protecting the visitor experience and the natural resources at our most visited parks.

Many other national parks across the country are clogged with sewage, trash and frustrated visitors, while Bryce and Zion national parks continue to provide a welcoming experience to pristine red rock. The Utah Office of Tourism Red Emerald business strategy puts customer service as a key driver, and we mean it.

Utah’s silver linings playbook is straightforward. Everyone works together to figure out what each can offer, steps up quickly, and communicates constantly to perpetuate success.

Of course it’s easier said than done. Write a check to the federal government with a no refund clause while the federal government is shutting down at the beginning of the Christmas holidays? Well that’s tricky. Here’s the all-star cast that made it happen and some key plot twists they were up against:

One-week countdown to shutdown: Tom Adams, state outdoor recreation director, led as statutorily required to identify key priorities based on projected visitation.

Imminent shutdown: Gov. Gary Herbert, Chief of Staff Justin Harding and Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) Director Val Hale were quick to approve a Utah Office of Tourism plan to reallocate operating project funds for park visitor and custodial services. New Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson agreed it was an important time to do good.

Emergency phone call with national parks superintendents: On Dec. 19, we brainstormed with national park, monument and BLM leaders how we would team tag to do right by customers and keep the parks clean.

Action plan: Dave Williams and Jay Kinghorn went into high gear to organize communications and transfer of money.

Delivering the check: Ridiculously hard, but Lorraine Daly pulled it off. Ask her about transferring a check on Friday night, Dec. 21 to Jim Ireland of the National Park Service at her Sandy condo. Thanks to state treasurer David Damschen and his team, including Jason Nielsen and Jay Blades, also Cory Weeks in State Finance, and Kamron Dalton and Sean Brownell on the GOED finance team.

Shutdown Part 1: National parks employees delivered big time the morning of Dec. 22, welcoming an unprecedented volume of visitors at Arches, Bryce and Zion national parks for this time of year. Shout out to Zion Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh, Bryce Canyon Superintendent Linda Mazzu and Arches Superintendent Kate Cannon. Amazing what “furloughed” federal workers can do to make sure their teams deliver. Cindy Morris, Aly Baltrus and Scott Brown at the parks all kept the parks running and kept us informed. Kate Hammond and Tara Riggs at NPS in Denver helped too. Rosie Serago kept constantly updated. Emily Moench fielded dozens of national and regional media inquiries.

(Christmas): That came and went with Rosie, Dave Hansford and Ben Dodds helping nearly 200 visitors on web chat and phone calls. Yes, even on Christmas Day.

Shutdown Part 2: Another tortured round of check writing to the federal government? Yep, that’s what we did. Dec. 26. Sandy Olney at GOED delivered this round. Practice makes perfect on giving money to the feds.

Shutdown Part 3: The Utah Way. With the holidays winding down, visitation projections at Arches declined, but customer demand at Bryce Canyon and Zion remained high. Enter Zion Forever Project director Lyman Hafen and Bryce Canyon Natural History Association director Gayle Pollock. Both foundations stepped up for the first part of the year. Board chair Lance Syrett shepherded all of it.  

Shutdown Part 4: The Utah Way on Steroids. Did I mention that in Utah our problems are big enough to see and small enough to solve? Next came a phone call from Washington County Commissioner Dean Cox with an offer to help. A four-way agreement to share costs between Washington County, St. George city, Zion Forever Project and our office came together in a matter of hours. Thanks to St. George Mayor Jon Pike for incredibly fast engagement. Note that Commissioner Cox had yet to attend his first meeting as a member of the Board of Tourism Development. No board member has done so much before their first meeting in the history of the board.

Relief from Interior: Congressmen Rob Bishop, John Curtis and Chris Stewart stepped up next, convincing Department of Interior to use fee revenues to support the parks. Gordon Larsen in the governor’s office helped make that happen.

UDOT plows & Arches Reopens. Carlos Braceras and Rick Torgerson from the Utah Department of Transportation joined our rescue team this week. Rick got Arches plowed, and Superintendent Kate Cannon reopened the gates, thanks to a contribution from the Canyonlands Natural History Association.

More plot twists to come, I’m sure. I’m also sure that there is nothing better than doing good with good people. Looking forward to continue to do right by our customers and our scenic treasures the Utah way.

—Vicki Varela, Managing Director

Invite Others to This Email List

The Utah Office of Tourism is developing a data portal for partner DMOs. We'd love to chat about how you're currently accessing and using data, so we can build the portal to your liking! To schedule email Rachel Stone ( before January 25, 2019. 

See more research highlights

International Market Management Roles

The Utah Office of Tourism has recently made the shift to individual international market management and focus. Rachel Bremer will lead in the markets of Germany, India and China. Celina Sinclair will lead in the markets of Canada, France, UK and Australia/New Zealand. In doing this, we hope to provide you with the opportunity to take an in-depth approach with the appropriate market managers on activities such as sales missions, trade shows, product development, FAM tours, co-ops and public relations efforts. 

Questions about FAM tours? Please contact Rachel or Celina regarding their specific market and Cecilia for greater detail about timing and involvement.


UOT Introduces Social Media Manager

As of October 2018, Melissa Kinney is UOT's new Social Media Manager. This new position is focused on creating content and developing a global strategic plan for all of Visit Utah's social media channels.  

Melissa comes to UOT with a digital marketing background, while also working with a variety of Utah-based organizations including the Utah Film Center, Sundance Institute and Salt Lake City Corporation. Her expertise and vigor in social media and content marketing are already providing great value as we continue to improve our social and online presence. When Melissa isn’t at the office, you can most likely find her exploring the outdoors, indulging in local eateries or experiencing the magic of the arts.


Rourism initiative grows with new programs

The UOT is expanding beyond the initial Rourism initiatives with new destination development programs: Community Assessments, Tourism Master Planning, Branding/Marketing, and Experiential Product Development. For two of these programs, UOT has contracted with consulting firms Coraggio Group and Hub Ltd. Coraggio Group has worked with DMOs in Wyoming, Oregon, and California to create actionable master plans to improve a destination. Hub Ltd. is a branding and design firm that has worked with Emery County and the City of Green River on their branding and marketing efforts. UOT looks forward to working with these two talented firms to support Utah’s destinations. UOT is currently searching for firms to oversee the remaining two programs and will have additional partner updates, education and opt-in information in the near future. View a PDF of UOT's Destination Development plan


UOT Wins HSMAI Adrian Awards
Dave Williams and Becky Keeney will travel to New York this January to accept three Adrian Awards on behalf of the Utah Office of Tourism. Over 1,100 entries were submitted this year and three UOT projects were awarded Gold and are being considered for Platinum:

  • More Mountain Time
  • A Taste of Salt
  • WeChat educational videos for Chinese visitors

Tribal Tourism Growth in U.S. and Canada
"Tribal communities increasingly want to welcome tourists to their territories," said Amos, as indigenous tourism experiences bookings are on the rise. Read the Skift story

January 24 – February 2, 2019
Sundance Film Festival

January 28, 2019
Legislative General Session Begins

February 1, 2019
Tourism Day on the Hill

February 8, 2019
UOT Board Meeting

March 6, 2019
Film Day on the Hill

Copyright © 2019 Utah Office of Tourism, All rights reserved.

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