2019 Southern Utah Tourism SummitTourism

SOUTHERN UTAH — With the goal of building bridges of connectivity between the Utah Office of Tourism, the Utah Tourism Industry Association and private entities, representatives from the travel and tourism industry are set to gather at the 2nd annual “Southern Utah Tourism Summit” in Cedar City in March.

The Hunter Conference Center on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, will provide the venue for the second annual “Southern Utah Tourism Summit” | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah Tourism Summit, St. George News

Featuring keynote speakers and breakout sessions – and of course, amazing swag – the summit seeks to support tourism in the region by offering a space for education, joining forces and collective engagement for everyone involved in the local travel industry, all while learning what makes the area “So Utah.”

It sounds like a big undertaking, but Cody Adent, one of the organizers for the Southern Utah Tourism Summit, told St. George News that after last year’s inaugural event, they conducted a survey of attendees to determine what they wanted to see, and this year they will be able to deliver on just about everything.

“We’ll have a networking social event on Thursday night after the first day of the summit,” Adent said. The social will be hosted by IG Winery starting at 6 p.m, with finger foods, beverages and a live session with the Three Hat Trio band.

The summit has also been extended by half a day. It will be held this year at the Southern Utah University Hunter Conference Center in Cedar City on March 28, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and March 29, from 8 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Adent said attendees also wanted more specific conversations or “breakout” sessions, so this year the summit will have two different sessions on Thursday, with eight breakouts per session.

Some of the topics will include brain health, word-of-mouth marketing, outdoor recreation and building a business around recreation and tourism. For a complete list of breakouts and presenters, click here.

In addition to the breakout sessions, the summit will feature the following guest speakers:

  • Ernie Harker – brand therapist.
  • Eric Bright – vice-president of e-commerce at Deseret Digital Media.
  • Chad Porter – Zig Ziglar-certified motivational speaker.
  • Vicki Varela – managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism.
  • Kaitlin Eskelson – executive director of the Utah Tourism Industry Association.

The mission of the Southern Utah Tourism Summit has been to inform the local, private sector of state tourism efforts, Adent said, as well as create a “dedicated place for conversation, camaraderie and driven comprehension on behalf of Southern Utah’s tourism industry.”

Adent said they have made significant gains and seen many signs of improvement in collaboration within the industry just in the last 12 months since the first summit.

“We created a committee this year. We’ve got every government entity from all the tourist destinations in the region,” he said, with committee members from Iron, Garfield, Kane, and Washington counties, as well as a private business owner from each county.

“Just that in itself was a huge milestone,” he said. “That’s something that would have never happened in the past, but now we’ve got everybody truly working together and collaborating in a really big way.”

Adent said their goal is to move the summit every year from county to county – featuring Iron County this year, Kane County in 2020 and Garfield County in 2021 – and they will swap out committee members each season in a continuing effort to diversify.

I hope we just continue to get more involvement. There’s so much that the state and counties offer for people, and they don’t know until they show up. Our hope is that by making it in their backyard, that we can get their involvement with us and then that involvement will grow into them being more involved in their counties and then also the state. … We’ve got more ground to cover than we have so far, but we’re on a really great pace.

As with the 2018 event, the summit continues to support the Zion Forever Project, with this year’s attendees being given the option to make a donation toward Cedar Breaks National Monument.

The Vibrant Team (L-R: Cody Ferdinando, Jocelyn Crowther, Cody Adent, Emily Brough, Dres Empey, Stefani Fong, and Breck Dockstader) at Brian Head, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Cody Adent, St. George News

Registration for the summit can be completed online for $75, but as a special bonus for 2019, Adent said attendees that live in one of the four participating counties will be reimbursed for 40 percent of the cost by their sponsor Custom Fit.

“There’s never been a better value, and we have a really incredible swag bag this year that we can’t wait for people to receive,” Adent said, adding they expect to see between 300-400 people.

Additionally, anyone who attends will receive a free lift ticket to Brian Head Ski Resort for the Saturday following the summit, with 50 percent off rentals for the day.

“We want to grow year over year,” Adent said. “It’s really exciting to see everyone working together.”

For more information about the Southern Utah Tourism Summit, its sponsors and partnerships, visit their website.