Utah Valley aims for new tourism angle
The Utah Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau's new Utah Valley logo, emphasizing its research that people think of Utah Valley as a "perfect place to gather." Courtesy of Utah Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau

PROVO -- While Utah Valley holds its share of adventures, it's hard to compete against, say, Hawaii, Colorado or even its state neighbor Moab when it comes to cornering the adventure market.

That's why it's time to retire the "Adventure Awaits" tag line -- though adventure is still out there -- and play to Utah Valley's major strength, which is serving as a gathering place, the Utah Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau decided.

"When you're looking at branding, I think you look at what space you can own," UVCVB president Joel Racker said. "No matter how much money we can throw at 'Adventure Awaits,' we are not going to own that space."

But meeting family and friends for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Women's Conference, or Brigham Young University football games, or graduations? The county has that covered.

Starting with today's soft launch, Utah Valley's face of tourism will no longer bear the old scribble font logo, designed to look "rugged," Racker said. Now Utah Valley will be known by a logo comprising an orange state outline with white shapes converging at Utah County -- looking not unlike a snowflake, though that's unintended -- with the serif-font phrase "Utah Valley: Bring everyone together" below.

The new branding strategy is the culmination of two years' work with UVCVB's advertising partner, Farmington-based thomasARTS. Though the "Adventure Awaits" approach has served its purpose, research interviews with 600 business and community leaders as well as 600 out-of-towners suggested the gathering aspect was stronger.

The hiking, biking, fishing and climbing are still draws to the area, but the valley might be better served playing up the low-key activities.

"Our river floats are nice, but it's not white water," Racker said. He mentioned the majestic Willie Holdman photographs that UVCVB used to put on its publications. "Then we realized, the average person isn't going to be walking through flowers up there unless they took an 18-mile hike. We wanted average people in the photos."

New brochures will likely include photos of down-home folk enjoying the Spanish Fork Festival of Colors, or the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, or the Thanksgiving Point Tulip Festival, emphasizing the practical gathering appeal of Utah County, including its proximity to Interstate 15, Salt Lake City and Sundance Resort.

One of the selling points this year, for instance, is UVCVB's new Par Pass, a partnership between the bureau, local hotels and all 11 public golf courses in the county. For $45, anybody (though business travelers are the target market) can play 18 holes at the course of their choosing, including a 30-day advance tee-time reservation.

The UVCVB revamp is interestingly timed, considering Portfolio.com rated Provo the least fun metropolitan area in the country last week. Racker wants to invite the editor of Portfolio to town for a follow-up to change his mind. Then again, Utah Valley isn't trying to be Las Vegas or New Orleans, he said.

"We're trying to identify what is the most potential with the low-hanging fruit," he said.

The roll out of the new brand will include new stationary, ads, pamphlets and a few tweaks of the website (which is currently switching from UtahValley.org to UtahValley.com). It will all be done within the same yearly tourism-tax-fed budget -- about $1.3 million -- that Utah County provides to UVCVB, Racker said.

The bureau was privatized into a 501(c)(6) non-profit in 2003, but is county-funded through tourism dollars, which, state-wide, save every resident almost $700 in taxes each year, though most probably don't realize it, Racker said.

Utah County Commissioner Larry Ellertson is excited to see the impact on tourism of the forthcoming $41 million, 120,000-square-foot convention center due in Provo in 2012. The County Commission works with UVCVB to focus on big group visits, such as business conventions, so a convention center is sure to boost things considerably. Ellertson believes Utah Valley will see an increase in individual visitors as an indirect result as well.

"There will be some residual effect for individuals who come in to those meetings in terms of them coming back if we can give them a favorable impression."

Matt Reichman can be reached at (801) 344-2907 or mreichman@heraldextra.com.