After the closing remarks were given and audience members began standing up to leave, it was clear that all in attendance knew that they were fortunate to have witnessed the beginning of something great; the maiden voyage of a new annual event that is poised to change the Southern Utah tourism industry for the better. The Tourism Summit was an obvious success, starting with the enormous amount of attendees that far surpassed any expectation, to the enthusiastic reaction of patrons after each speaker, followed by personalized and heartfelt congratulations given to the organizers in the days following. Using words taken from the event’s official website, wearesoutah.com, the Summit’s original intention was to provide an “opportunity to collaborate and build bridges of connectivity within our region and with UOT & UTIA. We want to assist in informing our private sector of State Tourism efforts as well as create a dedicated place for conversation, camaraderie and driven comprehension on behalf of Southern Utah’s Tourism industry.” It is in this writer’s opinion, having been in attendance at the Electric Theater on Feb 22, that the event accomplished precisely what it set out to do, in addition to so much more.
The place was bustling with energy before any scheduled speaker took the stage. In every corner of the lobby and auditorium, hundreds of hands were shaking as business owners, local legislators, and Southern Utah tourism advocates became acquainted with one another, most of which who, before that day, had never met, accomplishing one of the Summit’s main goals – “build bridges of connectivity” – before the event even started. Once the program officially began at 9:15 am all the way to the final comments around 4 pm, I can’t recall any noticeable hiccups in a single oral or electronic presentation and can only remember a fine-tuned, well-constructed itinerary that was impressively executed, to say the least. In addition, each speaker gave a presentation that was relevant, informative, and engaging. A quick recap of the speakers and their messages:
Kaitlin Eskelson, Executive Director of the Utah Tourism Industry Association, shed light on the strenuous journey of funding tourism at the state level, including the difficult process of dealing with legislators, while poking fun at the endless amount of acronyms that she deals with in her profession.
Vicki Varela, Managing Director of the Utah Office of Tourism, provided some very intriguing statistics related to Utah tourism (such as the percentages of tourism contributions per country economy), gave recaps on their monumentally successfully marketing campaigns (such as The Mighty 5 initiative), and acquainted us with the Red Emerald Initiative which is a “guiding document” created by UOT to help counties “focus on attracting quality visitors who stay longer, spend more and engage more deeply with the local community”.
Glenn Price, Founder of Bondir, in his unique and expeditious style, spoke on how “powerful engagement is powerful branding”, focusing on the ancient rise of the historic Medici Bank in Florence, Italy as an effective object lesson proving that high standards and patience pays off in the end.
Fynn Glover, CEO of Roots Rated Media, gave an enthralling overview of the effectiveness of modern content-based marketing techniques and how understanding the foundational process of the way stories become mythologies helps guide quality content. He used his hometown of Chattanooga, TN as a case study for how an effective narrative can produce positive transformations.
Roger Brooks, President & CEO of Roger Brooks International, in his signature humorous and piercingly direct approach, used a myriad of examples pulled from his extensive experience to show that “tourism is the front door to non-tourism economic development” and focused on practical ways to enhance Southern Utah’s efforts in areas such as wayfinding, curb appeal, billboards, place-making, product development, and more.
For those who were not able to attend the Tourism Summit: if you feel that your business or organization is influenced by the tourism industry of Southern Utah – directly or indirectly – and feel that the information detailed above is intriguing and applicable to you, be sure to visit zionnationalpark.com today and sign up for the newsletter as prompted on the home page. Information on the 2nd Annual Southern Utah Tourism Summit being held in March 2019, in Cedar City, UT will be distributed through that email list. Also visit the Summit’s official site, wearesoutah.com, for further information as well.
Here’s to many more of these fantastic events, the first of which was undoubtedly a triumphant day for the world of Southern Utah tourism. All who are passionate about this incredible area have a real reason to be especially excited about what’s in store. As one who put up roots here, I certainly am.
Originally posted on ZionNationalPark.com