Tooele County’s tourism consultants want $450,000 to take the county out of orbit and into the deep orbit of tourism.
That’s how much tourism tax funds State Street Partners wants the Tooele County Commission to spend on a brand launch and tourism campaign.
The county commission listened to Mike Deaver and Devin Shelley of State Street Partners, a Salt Lake-based marketing research and planning group, during Tuesday night’s commission meeting at the County Building.
“The space shuttle has to reach 20,000 mph to break the earth’s orbit,” Deaver said, who as deputy director of the state Office of Tourism helped launch the state’s “Life Elevated campaign.’ “That’s kind of where we’re at with tourism in Tooele County. This has not typically been a tourist destination. We need that rocket fuel to get us out of orbit.”
State Street Partners was awarded a $100,000 contract to inventory the county’s tourism assets, develop strategies to build tourism, and develop a positive brand for the county. The county’s Tourism Advisory Board had recommended the county hire tourism professionals to advise the county on the best way to spend the county’s tourism dollars.
About 55 percent of the $450,000 would be spent on buying media, including print, television, and digital. The remaining 45 percent would be spent on developing that content, according to Deaver.
The $450,000 would come from the county’s tourism fund, which receives revenue from a dedicated tax on spending for hotel rooms and meals at restaurants. State law restricts the spending of tourism tax revenue to tourism purposes.
The marketing campaign’s goal will be to grow the current $66 million total that visitors spend in Tooele County by 5 percent over 18 months, adding $3.3 million in new visitor revenue to the county’s economy, Deaver said.
In addition to tracking growth in tourism related revenue, other metrics will be used to measure the campaign’s success, including website traffic, social and digital media, hotel occupancy and growth in events, according to Deaver.
In 2017 State Street Partners released its findings on Tooele County’s tourism potential, including attractions and perceptions of county residents and nonresidents.
“We spent two and half years visiting all the possible tourist attractions,” Shelley said. “The real opportunity we feel is in this convenience tourist. You have 2.5 million people that when we researched told us they don’t really know that much about you. You have a clean slate. No obstacles we found are insurmountable. You have a very bright future if you pick this journey.”
Convenience tourists include people already driving through Tooele County, visitors from out of county already coming to events in the county, as well as people along the Wasatch Front for which the proximity makes Tooele County a potential desirable location to visit.
“We need to get more people to come out to events and stop and to fill up with gas, to buy a hotel room, to eat at our restaurants, and purchase things in stores,” Deaver said.
In addition to the $450,000 marketing campaign, the state’s tourism marketing coop board, consisting of volunteers who work in tourism related industries, has awarded Tooele County a $76,000 grant for an ambassador program. The ambassador program will bring social and digital media influencers out to Tooele County and reward them based on what they produce and distribute on social media, video content particularly, according to Deaver.
The $450,000 price tag caught the attention of Tooele County Commission Chairman Wade Bitner.
“There’s a sticker shock with $450,000,” he said.
Commissioner Myron Bateman also expressed concern with the proposed cost of the tourism and branding campaign.
“This is a lot of money to spend out of the tourism fund. Will we really get that much back?” he asked.
“This is what we need to get out of orbit,” said Deaver. “We have to be out in the market. This what will reach the Wasatch Front. This is what will reach out of state. This is what the county tourism board has advised. This is what the state has endorsed. This is what will help Tooele to grow itself, to be visible, to really have an ensign that everyone can rally behind.”
Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne said he likes the campaign.
“I absolutely support the campaign,” he said. “Like I support roads, water and sewer, and other things the community needs to grow. I know how much I have spent on my small business per year to market and grow my business.”
Bitner was still concerned with the cost.
“This is a huge campaign for me,” Bitner said. “It’s a lot of money, but the opportunity for us is good. Is Tooele County ready for a huge campaign or do we need to start with a soft opening and instead of spending the whole thing in one year, maybe spread it out over two?”
The marketing campaign was listed on the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting as an information and discussion item, according to Bitner.
“The idea is to introduce the subject tonight, not to take action tonight,” he said. “We have the opportunity to have input from other invested people and get a handle on the sticker shock. We need time to run that through.”
The $450,000 tourism campaign may be on the agenda for the commission’s Sept. 25 meeting, according to Bitner.