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Park City residents value tourism despite concerns of crowding

Majority of Utahns feel positively about the industry, says a new study from the Utah Office of Tourism

Hundreds flocked to Canyons Village at Park City Mountain Resort in November. A new study from the Utah Office of Tourism found that 98% of Park City residents said the community receives “a great deal” of tourism.
Park Record file photo

Park City residents understand the importance of tourism to the local economy, a new study from the Utah Office of Tourism found, and despite concerns like traffic or overcrowding, most of the survey respondents still say the community can provide a positive experience for tourists.

Across the state, the majority of Utahns believe the positive impacts of tourism outweigh the negative ones. Approximately 75% of residents feel the industry has helped the state’s overall reputation, according to the study conducted by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute of the University of Utah. Locally, 40% said the positive effects of tourism outweigh the negative. While Park City-area residents recognize the value of the industry and have pride for their town, they also underscored the consequences it can have.

Jennifer Wesselhoff, the president and CEO at the Park City Chamber & Visitors Bureau and a Utah Office of Tourism board member, said she was pleased to see the state looking at tourism through a different lens to better understand what residents want. Part of the job is attracting visitors to Utah, she said, but it’s also critical to understand the implications for full-time residents.



Among Park City respondents, 98% said the community receives a great deal of tourism. The number was second only to Moab, with other areas like Springdale and Kane County close behind. In the statewide survey, 36% of respondents reported a great deal of tourism.

Although there’s a large number of tourists coming to the Park City area, 76% of respondents said the community is definitely able or mostly able to provide a positive visitor experience. More than half the residents also said the community has an overall positive reputation and 67% said tourism is “very important” to the local economy.



But while residents see the industry’s value, approximately 26% said tourism has caused a significant decline in their quality of life.

“We hate to hear that, but it’s not the majority,” Wesselhoff said. “I think there’s a sense of nostalgia for what used to be.”

While 38% of local respondents reported tourism having a “very positive” effect on job opportunities, about a quarter said it was negative. Approximately 27% of Park City-area respondents said their household income was dependent on tourism-related activities. Statewide, 10% of respondents had the same answer.

With the number of tourists coming to the area, 51% of local respondents said there were many more visitors than could be accommodated in some areas. Park City and Moab were also the only two areas where most respondents claimed tourism hurt the natural environment. Residents of those areas reported valuing environmental protection and natural resources at higher rates. More than 70% in each community strongly agreed the Office of Tourism should educate visitors about minimizing their impacts and traveling responsibly.

Halloween on Main Street in 2021 brought thousands of revelers to Old Town. Despite the crowds, a new survey from the Utah Office of Tourism found that the majority of Park City residents feel the community provides a positive visitor experience. I Park Record file photo

Park City residents were also divided on whether tourism improves their access to recreational opportunities or if it has a negative impact. One-third felt unfavorable while 34% reported the opposite. The figure was also split across the rest of the state with 40% of Utahns perceiving a positive effect, 30% as negative and a quarter as neutral.

The Chamber/Bureau has already started some work to mitigate trail overcrowding, Wesselhoff said, including, removing some information from the organization’s website and sending visitors to less common trails or those further away from neighborhoods to better disperse users.

However, local respondents agreed that tourism does improve the number of recreational opportunities as well as other amenities, dining opportunities and cultural experiences, which is an asset even if there is reduced access.

Residents of Park City and Moab also agreed that tourism has negatively impacted housing affordability. Around 70% of local respondents reported negative effects of tourism on the housing market and only 14% felt neutral or positively about housing affordability.

Wesselhoff said she wasn’t surprised by the survey results and it underscores areas that are “pinch points” for residents. Despite their concerns, she said, residents still recognize the importance of tourism.

Dozens of hikers, bikers and dog walkers visited Round Valley in November. Park City residents were divided on whether tourism improves their access to recreational opportunities or if it has a negative impact in a new study from the Utah Office of Tourism. One-third felt unfavorable while 34% reported the opposite. I Park Record file photo

In the future, she plans to compare the data to results collected in a separate resident survey conducted by the Chamber/Bureau. Then, the information will be used to identify focus areas as the sustainable tourism plan to keep the industry thriving while balancing the need for environmental stewardship is developed, according to Wesselhoff. The plan is around three months away from being completed.

“That balance is hard to achieve. Sometimes, that stool is going to be a little wobbly. One area, like for example over Christmas week or Sundance, can be a little out of balance but you look at the week after the ski resorts close and we’re out of balance the opposite way,” Wesselhoff said. “The industry and the community are dynamic and it’s constantly moving. I think the important message for our community to hear is we’re trying to achieve some semblance of balance – it’s not just about more, more, more.”

Results from the surveys point to several overarching themes, including fears that Park City is losing its sense of community to become a destination and that the infrastructure is ill-equipped for more tourism. On the positive side, Wesselhoff said, there’s a sense of readiness to address those challenges.

Park City residents, she said, realize that tourism is a complex, nuanced issue and are willing to work together because they value what the area has to offer.


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