Commentary: Even with the loss of Outdoor Retailer, Salt Lake City’s meeting and convention future is bright

Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune Giant metal letters spelling out "Belive" glow with color during the third night of Eve at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, December 1, 2013.

Downtown Salt Lake is many things to many people. It is home to Utah’s capital city, which includes local, national and international corporations employing tens of thousands of people. It’s the cultural arts hub of the Intermountain West, one of only a handful of cities to offer Broadway productions and professional ballet, symphony and orchestra companies. And it has become a hotbed for creative and innovative chefs offering cuisine from around the world, often sourced from Utah goods.

Salt Lake is also the worldwide headquarters of the LDS Church and home to Temple Square, the state’s largest tourism destination. The University of Utah, just a few miles east, is one of the nation’s finest schools for law, engineering, education and medicine, as well as affiliated medical facilities including Primary Children’s Hospital and the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

And every other week or so, the Salt Palace Convention Center hosts large-scale events that create a significant amount of economic vitality as thousands of visiting attendees patronize local businesses.

Meetings and conventions benefit our hotels, restaurants, bars, transportation companies and local retail stores, not to mention the multiplier effect that benefits other businesses, such as print and copy centers and booth storage facilities. Meeting and convention attendees come to Salt Lake, spend $933 each on average in our community (per the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute) which generates a substantial amount of tax revenue that helps offset our individual tax burden to the tune of approximately $1,100 per year per household. We aren’t responsible for their education or other costly community services. It’s an ideal business model, and one that Salt Lake does quite well.

One such convention we just hosted happens to be our largest: the annual doTERRA Global Convention, which has been held in Salt Lake since 2008. Last week, the convention brought 30,500 attendees to our community. For four days, doTERRA’s attendees, which included visitors from 68 countries, used more than more than 60,600 hotel room nights and had a direct economic spend by the attendees of nearly $29 million.

Earlier this summer, we hosted Outdoor Retailer for the final time (at least for the foreseeable future). The fact that it was leaving Salt Lake after 22 years made headlines. However, it’s important to note that the OR summer and winter trade shows represented just two of 56 city wide events Salt Lake hosted in 2016 (city wide is defined as using 750 or more rooms on the events’ peak night, and the Salt Palace Convention Center).

It’s not atypical for cities to lose and gain tradeshows, and we at Visit Salt Lake will continue to do what we have done since 1984: market, position and sell our community as the world-class meeting, convention and leisure travel destination it is. Our sales team will continue to prospect and bid on conventions to fill the Salt Palace and meetings for Salt Lake’s many hotels. Our marketing team will continue its efforts to position Salt Lake as the ideal year-round meeting, convention and leisure destination. And our services team will continue to fulfill the wants and needs of our clients while welcoming their attendees with the warm hospitality that has become a hallmark of our community.

Salt Lake’s meeting and convention future is bright, as there are a number of city-wide conventions and events already booked through 2030. Meetings and conventions like doTERRA’s annual convention mean big business for Salt Lake and the state of Utah as a whole. Rest assured that Visit Salt Lake and Salt Lake’s hospitality community will continue to work hard to ensure the long-term success of the meeting, convention and leisure travel industry that provides so much economic support and opportunity to our community.

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