Some numbers have finally trickled in from last month’s Country Explosion concert at Deseret Peak Complex, and if they’re correct, they’re impressive: Total attendees almost matched Tooele County’s current population, and a couple of million dollars may have been pumped into the local economy.
As reported in last Thursday’s front-page story, “Music festival claims big cash impact,” Mike Deaver, a consultant and spokesperson for the producers of Country Explosion, said according to ticket sales, there were 54,234 total attendees at the four-day concert. Of that number, 47,292 came from outside the county.
Deaver also said that attendees dropped $900,000 to $3.2 million into the local economy. Those cash figures, he said, are based on conservative projections. The total cash outlay by concert visitors may be more.
If those numbers are reasonably accurate, and depending on one’s perspective regarding investments, the question about whether or not the Tooele County Commission got a return on its $400,000 to help market the event — and bring new visitors to the county — may be answered. A calculated attendance of nearly 50,000 new visitors over four consecutive days is certainly an accomplishment.
But what hasn’t been answered yet is should the county commission sign a deal to bring back Country Explosion next year — and possibly use even more transient room tax money than this year’s $400K to promote it?
If the commissioners intend to commit for next year, and to again use transient room tax dollars to fund marketing objectives, they should first create a comprehensive strategic plan that specifies what those objectives are and how much money should be spent on each. If the commissioners want to attract even more new visitors next year, and to encourage those visitors to return long after the concert, work needs to begin now to prepare a larger marketing campaign.
That marketing campaign is to cost-effectively introduce Tooele County’s recreational, historical and geographical attractions to thousands of concert attendees. Such a campaign was conspicuously and painfully absent at this year’s concert. The Tooele County Chamber of Commerce did have an information booth at Country Explosion, but the effort could and should have been so much more.
At the very least, such a campaign could, for example, include publications that concisely show the county’s most popular visitor sites. To name a few, for recreation there’s trail riding by ATV, horseback or mountain bike; for history there’s the Pony Express Trail, Benson Gristmill or ghost towns like Ophir; and geographical areas include Deseret Peak Wilderness Area, the Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats.
But publications aren’t enough, and are even useless without an effective distribution plan to get them into the hands of concert visitors. An entertaining enhancement would be a professionally produced video that also highlights the county’s visitor attractions. The promotional video could be shown between performances on the concert stage’s jumbo screens. Lastly, both the publications and the video should point visitors to the county’s tourism website, www.exploretooele.com for more information.
If Country Explosion is welcomed back next year, and the commissioners genuinely want to encourage concert visitors to return, let’s show them what we’ve got, and be proud about it. If we don’t, it will be a missed opportunity on a colossal scale.