Tourism • Leaders say the perception of whacky drinking rules hurts convention appeal.
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Moab might have arches, St. George golf and winter weather and Park City Utah's three largest ski resorts.
But Salt Lake County remains Utah's biggest tourist destination and produces 54 percent of the state's tourism-related revenue.
That was the message Visit Salt Lake president and CEO Scott Beck brought to the publicly funded private organization's quarterly meeting Thursday morning along with a promise to work on "normalizing" Utah's liquor laws.
The mission of the group, which has requested $7.9 million in transient room tax funding from Salt Lake County for 2014, is to bring conventions and leisure travelers to Salt Lake County.
"You breathe life into our economy and bring jobs to Salt Lake County that bring life and energy into our community," county mayor Ben McAdams told the group.
Beck said working on normalizing Utah's liquor laws will be a major priority.
"The key for us moving forward as a destination is what we do statewide," he said. "We need to change the perception of Salt Lake that comes because of the perception of weirdness of our liquor laws."
He said Utah lawmakers need to consider changing rules regarding the hours of when liquor can be served, the ability to allow guests to take alcoholic beverages from a convention center room back to their hotel room and to make it easier for diners to order a drink.
For example, Beck said that due to rules governing hours of operations, tourists can't order a bloody Mary or mimosa with a Saturday or Sunday morning brunch. A visitor attending a conference at a hotel such as Grand America can't take a glass of wine out of the convention area upstairs to check on children who might be staying there. And tourists who enter the wrong side of a restaurant might be told they must first order food.
Beck said the proposed budget for 2014 reflects a $2.5 million increase, fueled mainly by a 7 percent increase in transient room taxes tourists pay that funds much of Visit Salt Lake's operations.
Major goals for the group in 2014 include increasing visits to VisitSaltLake.com by 25 percent to more than 1.5 million; increasing the number of convention room nights by 2 percent; the rebranding of the Ski Salt Lake program, and turning NowPlayingUtah.com into the Wasatch Front's most comprehensive database of art and cultural events.
Beck said the group planned on doing the first major upgrade to the Salt Palace visitor center in 18 years. It is also hoping to develop a moveable visitor center in an Airstream trailer or truck that can be used to promote Salt Lake City at major events.