Outdoor Recreation & Tourism


Institute for 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 2010, 20.2 million domestic and international visitors traveled to Utah, spending an estimated $6.5 billion. As an important sector in Utah’s economy, tourism supported almost 123,000 jobs in travel and tourism-related industries and generated $842 million in state and local tax revenues (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).

"Tourism is a vital industry for Utah, and these increased revenue figures bode well for our state. They are evidence that Utah continues to gain worldwide recognition as a premier vacation destination," said Governor Gary R. Herbert. "We expect tourism to continue its growth trajectory as more and more people become aware of all Utah has to offer its visitors." "It's exciting to see the continued growth in our tourism industry and its important to note the positive impact that this will have on both our urban and rural communities in Utah," said Spencer P. Eccles, Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development. "Tourism continues to be an important component of Governor Herbert's challenge to all Utahns to accelerate the creation of 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days."

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 for 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 for 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.

Steven W. Burr, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

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