Recreation, tourism conference concludes in TF

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ERIC GOODELL

TWIN FALLS – Magic Valley is poised for further growth in tourism and recreation, says a Department of Commerce official.

“The recreational opportunities in Magic Valley are fabulous,” said Matt Borud, Marketing and Innovation Administrator. And word is still getting around, he said.

Borud was among 100 people who gathered at the Herrett Center in Twin Falls for the Idaho Conference on Recreation and Tourism. The conference ended on Wednesday.

“A lot of things that we talked about during the conference are growth in the context of a post-pandemic, post-Covid world, but in Magic Valley we are seeing a strong uptrend, a strong growth trend over the last 5, 6 or 8 years,” he said. “It’s a destination that travelers are becoming more familiar with.”

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Leisure opportunities coupled with small businesses like restaurants, breweries and wineries make for a well-rounded trip that tourists are interested in, Borud said.

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Travelers spent about $263 million in Magic Valley last year, according to the Idaho Department of Commerce, up 16% from 2019. Statewide, tourism is a $4.8 billion industry, and spending is up as of 2019 increased by 12%.

“Region 4 has been one of the fastest growing regions lately,” Borud said, but is the second smallest region in the state, hence the lower percentage of dollar amounts.

Among those attending Wednesday’s speaker conference was Craig Quintana, public information officer for Idaho Parks and Recreation.

Quintana said the past two years in Idaho have been a “recovery renaissance.” People were spending more time outdoors during the pandemic, and attendance at Idaho state parks increased by 30%.

He suspects Idahoans plan to continue spending time outdoors post-pandemic.

A survey of 1,000 Idaho residents was recently conducted as part of the Idaho Department’s Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, which is conducted every 5 years.

Approximately 85% of respondents reported outdoor recreation, defined as an activity done outdoors for fun.

Walking and hiking—activities people do with their feet—were highly surveyed.

In Region 4, the survey shows there is a lot of camping, fishing and hiking, Quintana said.

dr Jaap Vos, Professor of Planning and Natural Resources at the University of Idaho, spoke about migration in and out of Idaho.

Using figures from Idaho’s DMV, including driver’s license returns, he said a high percentage of Californians are moving to the more urban areas, including Canyon and Ada counties.

Kootenai County has seen essentially equal numbers of people from California and Washington moving into the county, while Bonneville County is seeing almost equal numbers from Utah, Washington, and California.

And if there is a migration, there will probably be an internal migration. He noted that higher home prices in the Boise area have pushed some Idahoans towards the Magic Valley.

Vos said there are large numbers of adults ages 21 to 30 moving to the state, as well as people of the same age group moving out.

“What we’re seeing is that young people are more mobile,” Vos said.

He said his data may not paint an entirely accurate picture, but it’s clear that “Idaho’s population is changing rapidly” and consideration needs to be given to protecting the state’s resources.

He ended his presentation by quoting Robert Liberty, Founder and Director of the Urban Sustainability Accelerator and Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University: “If you’re not careful, all these things you love so much will be gone before then you blink your eyes.”

The Idaho Conference on Recreation and Tourism normally takes place every year but has been canceled for the past two years due to the pandemic. It is billed as an opportunity to meet and network with other leisure and tourism professionals.