H&LA’s recent research for a project in St. George, Utah revealed some exciting new hospitality-related developments happening in the area. These developments will have a major impact on tourism, employment, and the general economy in St. George and the surrounding areas in 2021 and beyond. On-going pandemic concerns may alter timelines for some of these projects.
- Zion National Park in Southwest Utah has seen a massive increase in visitors over the past decade. According to figures reported by the National Park Service, the number of recreation visitors increased from roughly 2.7 million in 2010 to 4.5 million in 2019. While visitation was down by about 20% in 2020 due to travel restrictions and COVID-related closures, the park is expected to welcome upwards of four annual visitors in 2021 and beyond as vacationers increasingly seek out opportunities for outdoor adventure travel.
- In recent years, several major improvements have been proposed to upgrade the east entrance to Zion National Park and address the problem of overcrowding in the park. Possible improvements include a new visitor center, an electric shuttle system, over 40 miles of new trails, and new lodging and retail offerings. Envisioned as a public-private infrastructure investment, these enhancements are expected to support increased visitation and preserve the park’s natural beauty for generations to come. As of our research date, however, no official timeline for these projects had been announced.
- In 2021, Southwest Utah will see the opening of two new glamping resorts: Open Sky Zion and Zion Weeping Buffalo Resort. Open Sky Zion, which opened in March, features safari-style glamping tents, private outdoor showers, and an onsite spa tent and restaurant. Zion Weeping Buffalo Resort, slated to open in July, will offer tepees, cliff dwellings, cabins, and RV sites, with various recreational amenities and areas for wildlife viewing. Both of these properties are in Virgin, Utah, near the western edge of Zion National Park.
- After taking a forced hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRONMAN 70.3 North American Championship returned to St. George in May 2021, drawing thousands of participants and spectators. The city has also been selected to host the 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in mid-September. This marks the first time that this major international sporting event has been held in the Southwestern United States since 2013. These events will garner positive media exposure for the city and solidify its status as one of the world’s prime locations for IRONMAN events.
- A large master-planned housing development called the Desert Canyons is currently taking shape in the southern section of St. George, just south of the St. George Regional Airport. Spanning more than 2,400 acres, this project is expected to create over 3,800 residential units, along with complementary commercial and recreational developments. Now in the early stages of construction, the Desert Canyons community will be completed in phases over the next decade.
- In April 2020, Canadian composites manufacturer RS Technologies Inc. announced plans to open a new plant and office in St. George in order to better serve the West Coast market. The company, which produces composite utility poles, expects to draw over 350 jobs to the area over the next seven years, making it one of the largest manufacturing employers in Southwest Utah.
- Steward Health Care, one of the nation’s largest private physician-owned healthcare networks, recently finalized plans to build a new hospital in Washington, Utah, just northeast of St. George. The hospital will anchor the forthcoming Zion Medical Village, a multi-faceted medical campus offering a full range of patient services. Groundbreaking is scheduled to take place in July 2021, and the hospital will begin serving patients in October 2023.