Outdoor Recreation & Tourism


Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism


Utah is blessed with an abundance of outstanding natural resources on both its public and private lands, providing great destinations and attractions for outdoor recreationists and tourists. In 2012, spending in the Travel and Tourism Industry in Utah was a record $7.4 billion, making tourism the second largest “export” industry. Out-of-state visitors spent $5.3 billion (72% of the total) and their spending represents “new money” coming into Utah’s economy supporting jobs and generating tax revenue.  In 2012, tourism in Utah supported an estimated 129,000 direct and indirect jobs, and generated an estimated $961 million in state and local tax revenue. (Utah Office of Tourism, Governor's Office of Economic Development)

Utah is known for its rich diversity of outdoor recreation opportunities, from skiing and snowboarding the "Greatest Snow on Earth" to exploring slickrock and sandstone canyons in the spectacular canyon country of Southern Utah, from world famous rock climbing to experiencing the thrill of the elaborate network of OHV trails, from crystal clear fly-fishing trout streams to record big game hunting, Utah is an outdoor recreation wonderland. (Governor’s Office of Economic Development)

In 2013, the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation was established in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, as part of implementing Governor Gary Herbert’s “Outdoor Recreation Vision,” with the charge of working to promote Utah as a top state for the outdoor products and recreation industries, advocating for and developing outdoor recreation as a part of the state’s tourism economy, and ensuring that outdoor recreation in Utah’s diverse and beautiful landscapes continues to enhance the quality of life for both residents and visitors alike, now and for future generations. Indeed, Utah’s Outdoor Recreation Economy is impressive with $12 billion in consumer spending, 122,400 direct jobs with $3.6 billion in wages and salaries, and $856 million in state and local tax revenue (The Outdoor Recreation Economy, Outdoor Industry Foundation, Fall 2014).

Along with economic benefits, there are also costs associated with outdoor recreation and tourism—local communities may be overwhelmed by visitors, natural resources may be negatively impacted from crowding and overuse in popular areas, conflicts may occur between visitors and traditional users of public lands, and even visiting recreationists may not be compatible when participating in different outdoor activities. Increased outdoor recreational use from tourism may bring other unwanted social, economic, and environmental changes. A challenge in sustainable tourism development is to maximize benefits while minimizing costs, and developing planning and management approaches that are environmentally sound, economically viable, and socially responsible and acceptable.

Recognizing these potential benefits and costs, and challenges, the Utah Legislature approved continuing funding in 1998 for Utah State University's College of Natural Resources and Extension to support the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism (IORT). IORT's purpose is threefold: 1) to implement a program of research focused on the social, economic, and environmental benefits and costs of outdoor recreation and tourism; 2) to provide a program of outreach through Extension to assist government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in the private sector with outdoor recreation and tourism-related issues; and 3) to offer opportunities for education and training in outdoor recreation and tourism management to undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals.

As Director of the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, I welcome you to our website and hope you find the information and resources relevant and useful. This website is periodically updated with more information and resources, as we at IORT continue to move ahead with our mission. In addition, we certainly welcome your inquiries, feedback, and suggestions.

Jordan W. Smith, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

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Other Reports

The Economic Impact of Bear River Heritage Area Tourism

Examining Visitor Attitudes Toward the Proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument: A Visitor Survey in Utah’s Indian Creek Corridor

Practicing Environmental Etiquette in Utah’s Deserts