New Washington County tourism director aims to spur economic development, boost outdoor recreation

Outdoor recreation and economic development are some of the things that Kevin Lewis, the newly appointed Washington County, will focus on | Composite image by Brett Barrett, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — As the newly appointed Washington County tourism director, Kevin Lewis said he hopes to keep the county beautiful while continuing to be welcoming to visitors.

Kevin Lewis, the newly appointed tourism director for Washington County, said he hopes to attract the right kind of quality visitors to the area to help spur economic development, undated photo | Profile picture courtesy of Washington County sports and outdoor recreation department, St. George News

“I think we’re happy to share this area with others,” Lewis said. “But we want to make sure it stays the remarkable destination it is.”

Lewis, who will now oversee all tourism-related functions for the county, was selected from more than 60 applicants for the newly created position of tourism director. He was previously the director of sports and outdoor recreation for Washington County.

“We expect Kevin and his team to keep our momentum going by conveying our unique blend of excitement, relaxation and adventure to out-of-town guests,” Washington County Commissioner Zachary Renstrom said.

Long term economic development in the county can be boosted through tourism. Tourism can introduce people to the area who can then bring more businesses to the county, Lewis said, and more businesses means more opportunities to sustain tourism. 

“We want to responsibly grow the tourism economy,” Lewis said. “I think we do that by prioritizing quality — not quantity — of visitors. We want to attract the kind of people who will make our community a better community.”

One of the key tourism aspects of Washington County that Smith said he is focusing on is outdoor recreation. Through a recently created trails committee, Lewis said he hopes to connect and expand the trail systems in the county, including trails for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding and driving off-highway vehicles.

“We’re trying to unite those things in a master plan where we have information available for what is here,” Lewis said. “We’re also starting to develop the connection points to bring all these trails together.”

Washington County is also partnering with the city of St. George to fund projects like the St. George bicycle skills park and Canyon Softball Complex renovations.

Read more: Planners seeking public input for bike skills park project

“By uniting the county resources, the city resources and the positive impact of tourism, you can start to see how it will benefit the community,” Lewis said. “The people that live here will enjoy the fruits of the revenue and the tax breaks that comes as a result of the tourism that is going on here.”

According to data from the Utah State Tax Commission, Washington County receives $6.1 million in tax revenue annually from visitor room rentals, which is more than all but two counties in Utah. Tourism-generated tax revenue also provides more than $1,200 in tax relief per household each year.

The increasing level of tourism activity brings a continued boost in employment, as well. Data from 2016 shows tourism-related jobs made up 16.6 percent of the total job base in Washington County and tourism-related employment opportunities grew by 22 percent from 2012 to 2016.

Lewis has not wasted any time starting to work on his vision for tourism for the county, he said. Overall, Lewis said his biggest goal is to “energize, inspire and reward the community through tourism.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter:  @STGnews | @SpencerRicks

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • statusquo February 25, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Did Mr. Lewis attend the same tourism conference as other leaders in the country. What exactly do “quality tourists” look like? This is the second time I have heard this concept proposed by local governments in recent months. The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce has had many complaints from citizens about too many visitors in town during the summers, so they too are on a mission to attract only “quality tourists”.

    Who is teaching them this nonsense?

  • beacon February 25, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    We may have a lot of tourism and that may translate into tax revenue and some service jobs, but is that what’s really serving the needs of our county’s working population? Low-income workers are moving out of St. George to outlying areas because they can’t afford to live here. Is that the goal we have with out focus on tourism? Driving our worker out? Homes in this year’s Parade of Homes started at around $600,000 when in years past they have at least had homes in the $200-$300K region. People won’t be able to live here if this continues. While this is occurring, homeless from the Salt Lake City area where they’ve clamped down on homeless in the Rio Grande area have moved down here adding to the problem. What are we creating?

  • utahdiablo February 25, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    What are “We” creating? Nothing….the developers are creating another hell like southern California has become, and the people there cannot affors their homes anymore either…..Vision Dixie? This is total BS….your losing your way of life people, wake the heck up

  • Karen February 25, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    I am so happy to hear of the appointment of Kevin Lewis as the new Washington County Tourism Director.
    I have worked with Kevin in the past. I have always admired his work ethic, honesty, and sunny disposition. We are in very good hands, and I, for one, am thrilled to see what he does. Bravo! Best appointment in decades.

  • Tyffany February 25, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    What does a picture of Monument Valley have to do with Washington Country. Learn your geography.

  • tcrider February 25, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    I would rather hang out with the non quality tourists down by the river.

  • Foxyheart February 25, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    Oh boy, MORE tourists! Then everything gets too crowded and people wonder how it got so crowded, then more money (ours) is spent on more roads, etc., then the locals are pushed out of their own backyard. Yay, economic development. yay. y a y not

  • comments February 25, 2018 at 11:05 pm

    “quality tourists” are the ones that don’t need to ask, or even care to ask what things cost. you guys get the idea $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  • Striker4 February 26, 2018 at 12:20 am

    Glory be ! The Prophet has spoken and so it shall be. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  • asianspa February 26, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    The idiocy must end!! Growth and tourism at any and all costs has been sold to the community for the last 25 years and it has been everything that the community was told it wouldn’t be. This new director is continuing the puppet show using his new fancy word of “quality tourist” This guy is already conflicted by talking about boosting business yet saying he wants to promote quality over quantity. How about a nice compromise and you promote quality business , in other words business that don’t just hire service industry and actually push wages up? Oh yeah that is a contradiction and not exactly the type of jobs the tourist industry brings so we will just further our local communities deep into the blackhole of the welfare state.

    The current economy of Southern Utah is that of it being the have’s VS the have not. When the rich seniors look around and see how destitute this area is and how little liquidity in the market is to support the diverse offerings and more importantly safety they want in a retirement destination even they won’t come here. You will never get quality business here until the people step up and elect a non crony, non entrenched in self-interest based leader that can start enacting and pushing policy that is middle of the road. Less incentives for pointless warehouse industrial menial labor jobs and actual incentives for corporate and career level employers. Can we elect a leader who is not obsessed with bending over backwards for his own self interests and actually step up to get us off the list of the 2nd worst wages adjusted to cost to living? That list is sobering and should have put our local leaders in a state of panic but instead they high fived each other and yucked it up as they were soo proud of themselves for ripping off the local workforce and getting away with pure wage slavery.

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