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Iron County, Heritage Tourism

Historic-Heritage Tourism

 January 23, 2021

By  Jana Hassett

Historic-Heritage Tourism

What is it?  The business of providing services for tourists (those who travel for pleasure and interest).

Is Heritage Tourism  different?

The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines it as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present”.

Heritage tourism  creates jobs and business opportunities.  Tourism based retailing is one such opportunity in Iron County.  In Utah, it is the 3rd most popular vacation activity for U.S. travelers, behind shopping and Outdoor Activities.

The Policy Institute of Utah at the University of Utah produced a summary of “The State of Utah’s Travel and tourism Industry”.  Compiling data from 2014 – 2018, several statistics stood out.

In Iron County, growth in Private Leisure and Hospitality Employment ranked 5th with a 26.3? increase.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t equate to an increase in county transient room tax receipts, nor sales tax receipts.  Yes, Iron County revenue increased 5.3% in that period, but that didn’t put them in the top 10 counties (statewide) for room tax revenues.

Neighbors Garfield and Washington counties are both in the top 10.  What are we missing?

Tourist-based retailing.

While direct visitor spending has risen year over year 2014-2018, Iron county hasn’t kept up.  We host a tremendous number of festivals and events, but that’s not resulting in sales tax or transient room tax revenue increases.  There is no tourist centered retailing in Cedar City.  We’re the Gateway to Red Rock Country, but the numbers seem to say “buy gas and good and then move on” through the gate.

Keeping Visitors Here

The Shakespearean Festival and Simon fest bring visitors for overnights and meals.  But it appears not all are staying in local lodging and there are very few stores open Sunday for tourist purchases.  With two National Parks within an hour drive, they might be lodging in either Garfield or Washington Counties.  They could be spending one night here and then leaving for Bryce Canyon, Zion, or the Grand Circle experience.  But one night isn’t enough.

What keeps visitors 2-3 nights per trip and entices them to return?

Attractions. 

Keeping visitors busy and engaged in the community is vital to multi-night stays.  And as shopping is the second most popular vacation activity behind outdoor activities, we are unable to keep them interested.

When was your last visit to Springdale or Moab, Utah? Both local communities boast a mix of art, craft, souvenirs, t-shirts, hats, rock shops and a central shopping area with eateries.

We must grow a tourist-based retailing corridor/corral to encourage visitors to spend more time in town.

The number of attractions in the immediate of Cedar are few.  Kanara Falls, Old Iron Town State Monument, Parowan Gap, come to mind, but once visitors explore those (if they do) it’s on to ski resorts, parks, and shopping.

Except for the Museum.  Heritage Tourism is alive and well at the Frontier Homestead Museum State Park.  The museum tells the story of Iron County, coal, sheep, and railroads like no other entity in Iron County.  It is under-utilized and could be another reason to stay a second or third night in Cedar City (especially for travelers with children).

A commitment by other local businesses to send visitors (and locals) to the museum is needed.  Most motels have notebooks in every room that promote local attractions and a brochure is available to fill a sleeve with info, pictures, and internet links. Just contact our new Park Manager, Giani Julander, and she’ll see you get enough copies. 

Conclusion –

We need to work together to promote Heritage tourism.

Send visitors to the Museum, encourage them to visit Old Iron Town, Stroll down Main Street and visit the shops that are currently there and seek opportunities to provide merchandise to new shops. Our county is full of talented artists that would be happy to sell their goods through retailers where sales taxes are collected. 

We need more tourist-based retailers on Main Street.

Send visitors on a loop tour through the Parowan Gap and into Parowan or a walking tour of Old Town Cedar City and the Rock Church or the bronze statutes. We should be able to provide all the top three reasons that people in the U.S. travel.

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