“The entire tourism industry has been annihilated,” said Julie Hollist Terrill, the director of the Cache Valley Visitors Bureau. “Our hotels are empty. Our restaurants are struggling.”
As a result of COVID-19 and the subsequent response from government leaders, Hollist Terrill said international travel, group tours, conferences and special events have vanished. Hollist Terrill said the tourism industry is walking a fine line between managing COVID-19 restrictions and marketing for the future.
“I can’t really advertise for people to come to Logan and Cache Valley right now,” Hollist Terrill said. “But I certainly want people to be thinking of us very first when some of these restrictions are lifted.”
When advertising becomes appropriate, Hollist Terrill said the initial push will be toward Cache Valley’s “drive market” — areas within 4-5 hours of driving distance — but it’s unclear when people will be willing to travel. Based on conversations with other visitors bureaus and the Utah Office of Tourism, Hollist Terrill said it’s projected people will begin considering travel sometime in August.
“And that is if we’re lucky,” Hollist Terrill said. “For us in Logan, so much of our tourism economy depends on our summer season that this will be very difficult.”
Cache County collects 4.25% Transient Room Tax on hotel rooms and campgrounds. Hollist Terrill said based on TRT tax collected in 2019, the tourists in Cache County spent over $21 million in lodging alone.
“That is completely separate from anything visitors spend in restaurants, stores, attending events, buying gas, etc.,” Hollist Terrill said. “Tourism is a huge industry in Cache Valley.”
In an effort to help mitigate the damage in Cache Valley, Hollist Terrill said she is on a crusade to help local restaurants in the area. The visitors bureau doesn’t generally market to locals, but under the current circumstance Hollist Terrill said the bureau has begun advertising for local business in an effort to help preserve the valley’s businesses.
“We just need people to go to our restaurants, even if it’s inconvenient,” Hollist Terrill said.
She said some restaurants have been candid enough to disclose a “terrifying” 65% decrease in revenue. She said some of the smaller businesses may never reopen if their doors close.
“If Cache Valley can come together and support our restaurants, there’s great hope that they’ll still be here when all this is over,” Hollist Terrill said.
Despite swimming pool closures and changes to continental breakfasts, Hollist Terrill said Cache Valley locals could “bust out of their stir craziness” and stay in a local hotel if they wanted to further help support the hospitality industry.
“They would love it,” Hollist Terrill said. Hotel workers “are going to such efforts to make sure the hotels are absolutely sterilized and sanitized.”
Hollist Terrill said the current situation is reminiscent of the recession in 2008, which took a couple of years to begin to rebound, but appears to be economically worse. However, she said there’s always hope for the future.
“It will be OK in the end,” Hollist Terrill said, “but I don’t know when the end is going to be.”