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County officials hope new destination development plan will encourage tourism

Nov 10, 2023 09:29AM ● By Linda Petersen

County officials have been working on a Morgan County destination development plan in partnership with the Utah Department of Tourism. County Commissioner Blaine Fackrell and Justin Rees unveiled the new plan which the group has been working on for the last 18 months to commission members on Oct. 17.

Prior to reviewing the plan, Fackrell had consultant Bryan Jordan of the Coraggio Group make a brief presentation to the commission on the potential impact increased tourism taxes could have on Morgan County.

In 2019, $125,00 in travel and tourism tax dollars collected brought $9.6 million in total economic impact to Morgan County, according to information provided by the University of Utah Kem Gardner Policy Institute, Jordan said.

“So people that visited maybe they only drove through. Maybe they only got gas. Maybe they stayed the night. Maybe they vacationed, maybe they bought something but $9.6 million was from travel and tourism in Morgan County,” he said. “If you look at what that means from an investment standpoint, the hotels and lodging and dining establishments earned $2.4 million. If they stayed the night, that led to $9.6 million in economic impact. If you want to think of  it from an investment standpoint that's a 403 percent  return on your investment.”

Just a small amount of additional Transient Room Taxes and restaurant taxes collected could lead to a significant increase in additional economic impact, he said. “These incremental increases in tax revenue make a huge impact on the community financially and economically.”

Jordan encouraged commissioners to share that night’s presentation on the plan with local businesses and community groups. “The more people that understand this the better residents and business owners [will] embrace tourism and what TTAB [Travel and Tourism Advisory Board] is trying to do from a tourism standpoint, the easier it is to promote or move these tourism efforts forward and the faster they will see the direct benefits from that as well,”  he said

“This is something we feel is valuable for the commission, city council, residents, and business owners to all buy into,” Fackrell said of the destination development plan which Rees then briefly outlined.

The plan’s aim is to “focus on and commitment to destination management, [which] will result in a more competitive local economy and a better quality of life for residents,” it says. The 10-year plan sets out 20 strategies to help both government and business in the county to “grow a thriving visitor economy” the plan says.

For the plan HUB Collective identified three unique groups of visitors that officials are hoping to draw to Morgan County: the curated outdoorsman, interested in activities such as fishing skiing, rafting, and adventure sports; the amateur expert interested in nature, historical and cultural experiences and what they call “the plus one planner,” essentially small groups such as families or friends who are interested in all of these activities, in particular the outdoors.

To encourage these groups to visit Morgan County the plan is broken down into three phases which a Destination Development Committee will help implement. In the first three-year phase, the plan aims to develop a marketing and communications strategy for promoting Morgan County and its brand,  to create a countywide lodging and accommodations master plan, along with wayfinding and active signage, and to survey local dining and entertainment-related businesses “to foster engagement feedback and buy-in,” to develop local souvenir outlets featuring local artisans and to work toward the creation  of at least three new dining establishments

In this phase, Morgan County officials hope to increase Investment in community facilities, promote local events, and expand outdoor recreation opportunities. They also want to work with local landowners to develop “curated experiences,” explore additional public/private agritourism opportunities, and develop incentives or a conservation fund to ensure the preservation of farmland and open spaces.

In the second three-year phase, the plan calls for the county to explore additional public/private agritourism opportunities, create a one-stop shop virtual information destination that hosts Morgan County information, and review, update, and develop ordinances, zoning, and incentives for new accommodation options. It also calls for the county to hire a full-time tourism director or equivalent staff.

The last phase would call for a conservation fund to be established or incentives identified to ensure the preservation of open spaces, to implement a Morgan County active transportation plan and an accommodations master plan, along with a master plan for new river recreation parks. It also calls for the establishment of a Commercial Street Alliance to activate the area and coordinate events.

While acknowledging that some of the plan is “aspirational,” Rees said, “The idea around this plan is to have a proactive approach for us to follow to promote tourism and then increase the amount of revenue that we can generate that can be put back into additional recreational opportunities for residents and tourists alike.” λ


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