A view of Logan’s Main Street and Center Street. Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash
LOGAN – After a disastrous year due to the coronavirus pandemic, things may be looking up for the Cache Valley tourism industry in 2021.
“The U.S. Travel Association indicates that, according to their recent surveys, nine of 10 Americans already have a vacation planned for this year,” said Julie Hollist-Terrill of the Cache Valley Visitors Bureau, during a recent report to the Logan City Council.
“They say that we need to prepare ourselves for a wave of ‘revenge spending’,” she added. “I think that’s because people are sick of staying home. They’re sick of not being able to go out to eat or to shows or to sporting events or wherever.”
While acknowledging that a vacation plan can vary from traveling an hour to the Great Salt Lake to flying coast-to-coast, Hollist-Terrill stresses that the fact that the majority of Americans now want to resume vacation travel is great news for the beleaguered tourism industry.
“When that wave (of revenge spending) breaks,” she predicted, “it’s really going to break and that bodes well for all of us.”
Whatever the future holds for the year 2021, travel experts say that it can’t possibly be worse than the previous 12 months.
Roughly 115 million Americans either lost their jobs or experienced a reduction in their work hours from the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March of 2020 through February 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Analysts at U.S. Travel say that about 25 percent of those impacted individuals were employed in the tourism or hospitality industries. In March and April of 2020 alone, more than 8.3 million Americans lost jobs in those industries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Hollist-Terrill says that visitor spending in Cache Valley supported more than 2,200 jobs in 2019 and those employees were heavily impacted when local tourist attractions shut down in 2020.
In terms of dollars and cents, the pandemic caused travel spending in the United States to decline by $492 billion, from $1.7 trillion in 2019 to $679 billion in 2020.
Here in Utah, tourists spent $10 billion in 2019. While official figures for 2020 are still being compiled, U.S. Travel estimates that statewide visitor spending declined by as much as 33 percent during the pandemic. If that estimate proves to be accurate across the board, Cache County may have lost the benefit of up to $62 million in tourist spending.
State officials estimate that nearly 130,000 tourists visit Cache Valley annually with about 40 percent attracted by local cultural events, including the usual Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre and Lyric Repertory theatrical seasons.
In other good news, at least some of Cache Valley’s traditional tourist attractions are now slated to resume this summer.
After a one-year hiatus during the height of the pandemic, organizers of Logan’s Summerfest have announced that the annual arts faire will return in June. That event, traditionally held downtown on the grounds of the Logan Tabernacle, will be moved to Cache County Fairground near Willow Park this year due to planned tabernacle renovations.
Utah State University officials have also announced that their traditional USU Summer Citizens Program will resume in 2021.
For more than 45 years, as many as 800 senior citizens have flocked to Cache Valley each summer, mostly from Arizona. Major attractions for those retiree couples are cooler temperatures, enrichment classes offered during the summer months on the USU campus and the opportunity to attend local performing arts programs and community events.
Recent analysis by the Utah Cultural Alliance suggests that spending by those senior citizens boosts the economy of Cache Valley by up to $14 million each summer.
Still in question, however, is whether or not those footloose retirees will return to Cache Valley in 2021 when its usual theatrical events remain in doubt.
As of Mar. 30, the managers of the Lyric Repertory Company and the UFOMT have been unable to confirm whether they will be able to resume production this summer due to state and federal guidelines limiting public gatherings.