Utah national parks would charge $70 per car under proposed fee hike

Salt Lake Tribune, October 25, 2017

By: Brian Maffly & Erin Alberty

To help tackle billions in deferred maintenance projects, the National Park Service is proposing a massive increase in entrance fees during peak visitation season for 17 parks, including four of Utah’s Mighty Five.

The seasonal cost of admission would rise to $70 per vehicle at Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches and Canyonlands national parks under the proposal outlined Tuesday.

“As part of our commitment to improve the visitor experience and ensure America’s national parks are protected in perpetuity, we are considering increases to fees at 17 highly visited national parks during peak visitor seasons,” NPS officials wrote in a statement Tuesday.

The new fee schedule would charge $50 per motorcycle and $30 per person not in a personal vehicle. Fees would also increase for commercial tour operators.

The park service is accepting public comment until Nov. 23. As of Tuesday evening, the comment site did not appear to be working. 

“The fees are being raised for a good reason,” said Zion National Park spokesman John Marciano. “This is a proposal for a fee structure increase, and your comments that you can make are extremely valuable to us.”

The fee hike would more than double the present price of admission, which is $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle and $15 per individual at Zion and Bryce Canyon, and $25 per vehicle, $15 per motorcycle and $10 per individual at Arches and Canyonlands.

The park system’s maintenance backlog was $11.3 billion last year. Utah’s share of that backlog was $278 million in 2015 — $62.1 million at Zion — much of that needed for road repairs.

Park service officials estimate that the fee hike will produce $68.6 million in added revenue in its first year.

Under the Federal Lands Recreational Enhancement Act, parks keep 80 percent of the revenue collected at their gates. The remaining 20 percent goes to support other national parks; 118 of the system’s 417 locations charge entrance fees.

The price hikes would go into effect in 2018. They would apply to visitors May through September at the four largest Utah parks, as well as Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks.

That window misses two of Zion’s and Arches’ busiest months, April and October.

The price of admission would rise from June through October at Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Shenandoah national parks, and from January through May at Joshua Tree National Park.

It is possible the proposed fee restructuring could hurt certain parks because a seasonal fee of $70 per vehicle could make buying the systemwide $80 annual pass a popular option for most people planning to visit one of the 17 parks. The price of that annual pass does not change under the NPS’s new proposal.

Because 80 percent of the money paid for an annual pass stays with the park where it was purchased, some parks could miss out on the hoped-for new revenue. Visitors touring the Colorado Plateau, for example, could buy the pass at their first fee-charging park, such as Colorado National Monument or Petrified Forest National Park, then get into Utah parks for free.

For park-specific annual passes, the price would rise to $75 under the proposal. The current price is $50 at Zion, Arches and Canyonlands, and $35 at Bryce Canyon.

It’s also not clear how the fee plans might affect proposals to manage visitation at Zion and Arches, where the park service is considering reservation systems. If fewer guests are allowed into the parks or are encouraged to visit during the offseason, it could affect potential revenue gains from a fee hike during peak months.

David Nimkin, Southwest regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, said the maintenance backlog is an acute issue for parks, but he doesn’t believe tapping visitors’ wallets is the best way to address it.

In a statement, association president Theresa Pierno said, “We should not increase fees to such a degree as to make these places — protected for all Americans to experience — unaffordable for some families to visit.”

The association supports the proposed National Parks Legacy Act, which would commit a share of oil and gas revenue to pay down deferred maintenance over the next 30 years

“We advocate using offshore royalties, which would be allowed under [the] bipartisan [proposal],” Nimkin said. “It makes sense to do it that way because it’s big money and it’s reliable money.”

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump’s administration proposed $400 million in cuts to the National Park Service for 2018.

“It would be helpful for this administration to support this legislation and not assume that increased fees will make a dent in this backlog. That is particularly true with a proposed 13 percent budget cut and eliminating over 1,200 permanent jobs,” Nimkin said.

Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, says she is “quite concerned that the proposed fee increase would make [parks] inaccessible to many Utah families.”

“I look forward to working closely with the Department of Interior to find solutions that keep these lands financially accessible to every Utah family,” said a Tuesday night news release from her office.

The fee restructuring would also affect tour providers, but the proposal does not indicate how much their fees would rise.

In the Zion gateway town of Springdale, clients pay the park fee separately from charges from operators such as of Zion Adventure Company. It serves tens of thousands of customers a year with guiding and shuttle services and gear rentals.

“That impact will still be on our customers,” said Bill Dunn, manager of the company, which pays a flat fee for special permit to guide in Zion. “It’s unknown what, if any, increase on that permit will be. The question we have to wonder is, have they considered the financial impacts on the communities surrounding the park? And the bigger concern will be the impact on the visitor-use management plan.”

 

Travel: America's Unsung Hero of Job Creation

Study: Workers Who Start in Travel and Tourism Achieve Higher Peak Salary Than Most Industries

Rising domestic travel fuels economic recovery, creation of promising career paths and small business growth; heartland states and major cities alike benefit from international visitation

MINNEAPOLIS (August 28, 2017)—As record numbers of Americans hit the road for Labor Day, a new study shows that travel is one of the most potent job creators of any American industry. 

"Travel: America's Unsung Hero of Job Creation" analyzes data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to showcase the significant economic power of the travel industry in America—particularly the quality of the industry's jobs, and the large number that are created by small businesses. 

Per the report: 

  • Overall, Americans whose first job was in a travel-related industry obtain an average career salary of $81,900—significantly higher than those whose first jobs were in manufacturing, construction, healthcare and most other U.S. industries.
  • Nearly 40 percent of workers who began their career in travel reached an annual career salary in excess of $100,000.
  • The travel industry also offers a statistically better career starting point for Americans with less education: workers with a high school degree or less whose first jobs were in travel reached an average career salary of $69,500, five percent greater than the average salary attained by workers who started off in other industries. 

"Amid sustained conversation in Washington about growing jobs and reviving communities hardest hit by the recession, lawmakers and the administration would do well to remember the awesome, but often underappreciated power of travel for our nation's economy," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "Small businesses are the backbone of American employment, and travel is a top small business employer. 

"More importantly, though, travel jobs are good, non-exportable jobs, with a unique capacity for career advancement. I'm an example of this myself. I started my career in the travel industry as a lifeguard at what was then a 12-hotel chain called Marriott. Many years later I departed the company, which by then had expanded worldwide, as the senior vice president of global sales."

Other key findings include: 

  • The leisure and hospitality sector, which is heavily dependent on travel, is the No. 1 small business employer in the United States.
  • From 2010-2016, travel jobs increased by 17 percent, compared to 13 percent job growth in the rest of the private sector. 
  • Travel employment grew in all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 2010-2015—and in 47 states, the travel industry created jobs faster than the rest of the economy during that period.
  • Even though it suffered a deeper decline in employment during the 2008-2009 recession, travel employment recovered to pre-recession levels a full two years faster than the rest of the economy. 

International travel, in particular, plays an outsized role in American job growth, not to mention our country's trade balance:

  • Last year, international travel directly supported 1.2 million jobs.
  • Travel is America's largest service export, valued at $246 billion in 2016, and second-largest industry export overall.
  • America enjoys an $87 billion travel trade surplus—and without international travelers' visits to the U.S. last year, our $500 billion trade deficit would have been 17 percent larger. 

"Today's report highlights what our industry already knew: travel puts Americans to work. Travel to and within our country is growing, and we cannot afford to compromise the amazing benefits it brings to workers and their families across the country. Our government leaders can spur even further economic growth and job creation through continued support for Brand USA and smart, effective visa policies that make our nation more secure even as they facilitate travel for legitimate visitors. 

Dow continued: "President Trump is right to be concerned about our nation's trade balance—and we're here to remind him that travel is one area in which we can win. International inbound travel is an export, and creates good, non-outsourceable jobs in every corner of the country. To keep that growth going, we need to do all we can to welcome more visitors to our country, and keep travel and tourism strong." 

View the full text of "Travel: America's Unsung Hero of Job Creation" here

Contacts:

Cathy Keefe Reynolds,(O) 202.408.2183,(C) 703.899.7031

Jamie Morris,(O) 202.218.3621,(C) 530.545.9274

National Travel & Tourism Week

NTTW-2017-logo.jpg

The travel and tourism industry supports the livelihoods of more than 15 million Americans, including more than 142,000 Utahns. Help us celebrate the Faces of Travel during National Travel and Tourism Week (May 7-13). Shine a spotlight on your community's travel industry by sharing their stories with local media, elected officials, and on social media using the hashtags #nttw17 and #FacesofTravel. Check out this link for ways to spread the word in your community and to harness the power of travel for your business or destination. 

Interior Secretary Zinke, Utah delegation meet to discuss next steps on Bears Ears

By  @amyjoi16

Published: April 27, 2017 4:30 p.m., Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met with members of Utah's congressional delegation and Gov. Gary Herbert to lay out the next steps in the review of monument status for the Bears Ears region in southeast Utah.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said the Thursday morning meeting went well.

"It was very good, very positive," he said. "For one thing, he (Zinke) understands the issues and the enormous impact it has had on my district, the 2nd Congressional District, among others. He described the president as being understanding and wanting to help, so I was quite encouraged."

Stewart said the group discussed both Bears Ears, at 1.35 million acres, and Grand Staircase-Escalante, at nearly 1.9 million acres.

"This is not just about national monuments. This is about families and the impacts this has had on rural communities, schools and families," Stewart said. "Every one of us, and I really mean it, I don't know of a single person who does not want to preserve these antiquities and doesn't want to preserve these incredibly beautiful vistas. The challenge is to do it in within the right scope."

The meeting came a day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing Zinke to conduct a review of monument designations of more than 100,000 acres dating back to 1996. In issuing the order, Trump said the abusive use of the presidential power needs to stop, citing 265 million acres that were set aside as monuments under his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

Stewart said Thursday's meeting focused on the process of designating monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, the intent of the law and how it has been used over the years — particularly in presidential proclamations that envelop millions of acres of land or water.

With Grand Staircase-Escalante, established in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton, Stewart said the monument's designation went beyond an intent to preserve antiquities and instead aimed to keep vast coal reserves off-limits.

"There are very few antiquities in that 1.8 million acres, but what there is are meaningful coal reserves, and it is clean coal," he said.

At the very least, Stewart said, boundaries at Grand Staircase-Escalante need to be adjusted.

"We want to look at redefining the boundaries and making some of these resources available, while at the same time protecting habitat and some of these antiquities that are truly worthy of protection," he said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, praised Wednesday by Trump for his doggedness on the monument issue, hosted Thursday's meeting to discuss implementation of the review process.

"I’m grateful that the president listened and that he even took time after the signing ceremony to meet privately with me and the vice president to discuss next steps on Bears Ears," Hatch said.

Environmental groups, conservation organizations and Democrats are blasting the executive order, decrying it as the first step in a presidential assault on public lands that will leave landscapes vulnerable to oil and gas development, mining, logging and grazing.

Bears Ears National Monument, with the exception of school trust lands and some private property, is already managed by the federal government and occupies land mostly controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. Any rescission of its monument status altogether or a modification of its boundaries will not changes its status as federal public lands.

Obama's monument proclamation acknowledges existing uses such as grazing, hunting, fishing and access to water rights, and monument designations don't trump current mineral or oil and gas leases. BLM officials describe its oil and gas potential as "low to moderate," and a proposed uranium mine expansion lies outside its boundaries.

Critics, however, fear monument restrictions will erode access and required travel plans for motorized vehicles will jeopardize off-roading in the region.

Zinke has been thrust into the middle of the long, contentious fight over the region's destiny. He has said he will visit Utah and meet with a variety of people in his review of the Bears Ears designation, but a Native American tribal coalition that pushed for the new monument said they have heard nothing from the new interior secretary.

"Our letters to your office from each of our tribal nations, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, and the Bears Ears Commission requesting meetings from you have gone unanswered. It seems illogical that letters sent nearly 100 days ago have not been answered, yet there will be a review of Bears Ears within the next 45 days," said a letter sent by coalition leaders to Zinke on Wednesday.

"Please do not forget — our tribes are the original inhabitants of the West long before the United States was a nation, and we do not view Bears Ears National Monument as an abuse," the letter continued.

The letter invites Zinke to the next meeting of the Bears Ears Commission in mid-May.

Another group, the Stewards of San Juan County, is also hoping to get some ear-time with Zinke.

"This monument was designated in order to appease outside special interest groups, and the voices of life-long residents and local tribal members who have loved and cared for this land the most were blatantly ignored," their statement said. "Bears Ears National Monument was done to us, not with us, and we deserve to have our voices heard."

Zinke is expected to visit the region in May.

Zinke will recommend Bears Ears fate within 45 days

By THOMAS BURR AND BRIAN MAFFLY  | The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Apr 25 2017 05:36PM    •    Last Updated Apr 25 2017 11:09 pm

Washington • Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke says he will recommend possible action to change the Bears Ears National Monument within 45 days of the executive order President Donald Trump is scheduled to sign on Wednesday, ordering a review of all monument designations over two decades, back to the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument.

Zinke said the executive order will ask for a final report on the monument designations from 1996 forward within four months, but an initial review will focus on President Barack Obama's naming of Bears Ears in late December.

"I think the concern that I have and the president has is that when you designate a monument, the local community should have a voice," Zinke told reporters at the White House.

The interior secretary said that the order will look at about 30 monuments ­— including those protecting marine areas — and examine possible tweaks to the 1906 Antiquities Act that gives a president unilateral power to set aside public lands as monuments. He said he wasn't sure if at the end of the process he would recommend changes to the law.

"I'm not going to presuppose what the outcome is going to be," Zinke said, adding that he would plan to talk to members of Congress, governors and other stakeholders as part of the review. He also said he would travel to Utah during the next 45 days.

Trump is slated to go to the Interior Department on Wednesday to sign the order, which includes a review of all monuments more than 100,000 acres in size named since Jan. 1, 1996. The review time was chosen to ensure Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which was named in September 1996, was included.

Zinke stressed that Trump's order would not strip any monument of a designation or loosen any environmental regulation on current monuments. He said the review was prompted by concerns from members of Congress and states about monument declarations that went against the wishes of local communities and affected public access and the livelihoods of loggers, anglers and ranchers.

"We feel that the public, the people who the monuments affect should be considered," Zinke said, noting that it was "yet another example of the president doing exactly what he is saying" and would restore trust between local communities and Washington.

Utah leaders have been pressing the White House to rescind the Bears Ears designation as well as trim the 1.8 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

A new poll out Tuesday showed a majority of Utahns, 52 percent, support reducing the 1.35 million acres of the Bears Ears monument or jettisoning the designation altogether. Some 41 percent said Trump should not take any action on the monument, according to the poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates and commissioned by UtahPolicy.com.

On Grand Staircase-Escalante, 53 percent of Utahns said Trump should leave that monument alone while 41 percent want it reduced or the designation rescinded.

Sally Jewell, who headed Interior when Bears Ears was named, defended the designation as having gone through a serious review.

"We worked very closely with our scientists, people on the ground, people in the communities that know these landscapes well, the tribes, particularly in case of Bears Ears, that understood what's needed for hunting, gathering and traditional practices and sacred sites. Those shaped the boundaries of these monuments which were very carefully thought out," Jewell said in an interview Tuesday with The Salt Lake Tribune, noting that she had visited Bears Ears on her recent trip back to Seattle after leaving the Obama administration.

Jewell said Interior did everything it could to craft a monument proclamation that protected Bears Ears' cultural resources and natural treasures, while respecting the wishes of San Juan County officials.

San Juan County elected leaders opposed the monument's designation.

"When you get out and look at the resource and listen to the people, including the opponents, a couple things become clear, particularly among tribal members that were against it. They had a lot of misinformation about what they would be allowed to do. That helped us to make sure that was clarified in the proclamation. I am very confident our work will stand the test of time," Jewell said.

Jewell said there's no question the monuments set aside during her time were "legitimate and appropriate in the spirit of the Antiquities Act."

Every restaurant or bar in Utah will have to display one of these signs

POSTED 12:34 PM, APRIL 25, 2017, BY BEN WINSLOW, UPDATED AT 05:28PM, APRIL 25, 2017

FOX 13- Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY -- Starting next month, every single restaurant or bar in Utah will have to display a sign designating whether they are a "restaurant" or a "bar."

Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission approved the signs at its monthly meeting on Tuesday. The signage was included in a massive liquor bill passed by state lawmakers earlier this year.

"Each bar is going to be required to have a sign that says this is a bar not a restaurant," DABC Compliance Director Nina McDermott told the commission.

he signs are required to be 8 1/2 x 11 inches, and conspicuously displayed at the entrance. They must be up by May 9.

The DABC Commission approved the signage, joking about whether the liquor control agency's executive director or the commission's pictures should be put on them as well.

After Tuesday's meeting, restaurateurs took the signage in stride. Michele Corigliano with the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association said she was more concerned about how the signs looked, saying they may take it to a "professional" to make it look nicer.

"It was part of the legislation," she said. "We did talk to a lot of restaurateurs and they felt this was not egregious."

The legislation was House Bill 442, that allowed restaurants to tear down so-called "Zion Curtains." In exchange, they could create a buffer zone at five or 10-feet, (think of it as a "Zion DMZ") keeping children away from the bar area.

Liquor prices will also go up two percent in Utah under the law, weekend brunch drink service begins at 10:30 a.m., in addition to the signage.

Utah may be the first state in the nation to mandate such signage, but Corigliano said she didn't think it added to the perception of the state's "weird" liquor laws.

"I'd like to get on the bandwagon against this, but I don't think it's as bad as it could be," Corigliano said. "It does give people all over Utah the opportunity to know what they're walking into."

DABC Commission Chairman John Nielsen agreed.

"Rather than embarrass people or have compliance issues down the road, why not just make it clear at the outset to the patrons and the people who are the owners of the bars what is required under the law?" he told FOX 13.

Trump to order review of Bears Ears, Grand Staircase

By THOMAS BURR | The Salt Lake Tribune

Washington • President Donald Trump this week will order a review of national monument designations — including southern Utah's Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante — as part of a wide look at a century-old law that allows presidents to set aside federal lands without congressional approval.

On Wednesday, Trump will sign an executive order to demand that the Interior Department secretary examine all national monument designations in the past 21 years to discern whether their size and scope are within the law's intent, a move that tracks clearly with concerns of members of Utah's federal delegation about the use of the unilateral presidential power in designating monuments.

A senior White House official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday that the review will stretch back a couple of decades — including President Bill Clinton's 1996 naming of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument — but mainly was prompted by President Barack Obama's last-minute naming of Bears Ears National Monument in December.

The order is not expected to change the designations immediately but has a short time frame for the Interior Department to report back on the designating of monuments back to Jan. 1, 1996. Clinton had named the nearly 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase in September 1996.

Many of Utah's top federal and state officials have called for a rescission — or at least a resizing — of the Grand Staircase and Bears Ears monuments.

While no president has attempted to withdraw a monument named by a predecessor, there have been those who have scaled back those designations.

For his part, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has pressed Trump for action on the Bears Ears declaration and visited the area last week.

"For years, I have fought every step of the way to ensure that our lands are managed by the Utahns [who] know them best and cherish them deeply," Hatch said in a statement Sunday night. "That's why I'm committed to rolling back the egregious abuse of the Antiquities Act to serve far-left special interests. As part of this commitment, I have leveraged all of my influence — from private meetings in the Oval Office in the president's first week in office to my latest trip to Bears Ears this week — to ensure that this issue is a priority on the president's agenda."

Environmental groups quickly raised concerns that Trump was acting without looking at the reasons that Obama used the 1906 Antiquities Act to preserve the 1.35 million acres of Bears Ears as well as the now 20-year-old Grand Staircase. 

"Utah's national monuments are our first line of defense against the very real specter of climate change, providing resiliency to not only the species within them, but also to nearby communities," said Jen Ujifusa, legislative director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "President Trump and the Utah delegation should focus their energies on solving America's challenges, rather than unraveling the solutions that are already working."

Josh Ewing, executive director of the Friends of Cedar Mesa, which along with an American Indian tribal coalition had pushed for the monument declaration, said he welcomes the review because, if done correctly, it will show the need for protection of the area.

"I would look forward to a serious review of Bears Ears by the secretary and by the Interior [Department]," Ewing said. "I think the conclusion they would come to, if they really look at the international significance of this place, is they would come to the same conclusion that [former Interior] Secretary [Sally] Jewell did after spending five days on the ground and a huge public meeting — which is that this place deserves to be protected and the only practical way to protect it is the Antiquities Act. So I would welcome a review as long as it is a serious one where they spend time on the ground and look at the resources and look at the data." 

Utah's federal and state leaders had been pushing a legislative solution to shield the Bears Ears and other areas. But the measure, which some complained was too friendly to mining and development interests, failed to pass in the waning days of the past congressional session after tribal and environmental groups complained that their concerns were ignored.

 

Antelope Island State Park Receives ‘Dark Sky’ Designation

SALT LAKE CITY - After many months of waiting, Antelope Island State Park has officially

been awarded the title of “International Dark Sky Park” by the International Dark-Sky

Association (IDA).

A park is only given this designation after IDA staff have reviewed the area and have

found it to possess “exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal

environment.” The association also asks that the land be protected for its natural, educational,

scientific, and/or cultural heritage.

Antelope Island is known worldwide for its stunning landscapes, engaging activities, and

of course the annual Bison Roundup. With this designation only adding to the allure of the park,

Assistant Park Manager Wendy Wilson says things are only up from here.

“We are thrilled,” Wilson said. “Dark skies are a valuable resource that is often overlooked, but

critical to human health, scientific research, wildlife health, and overall safety. We have a lot of

support from the community with our efforts to attain this designation – particularly from

Syracuse City and Davis County.”

J. Scott Feierabend, the IDA Executive Director, said the designation of Antelope Island is a

great step towards raising awareness and gives the community something to be proud of.

“The recognition of Antelope Island State Park as an IDA International Dark Sky Park is another

important achievement in raising the profile of light pollution and dark skies in the greater Salt

Lake City area,” Feierabend said. “Over a million city dwellers have access to naturally dark

nighttime conditions on Antelope Island thanks to the efforts of park staff in promoting

conservation of the resources through appropriate outdoor lighting.”

This brings the total number of official Dark Sky Parks in the Utah State Park division to three.

Antelope Island is preceded by Dead Horse Point State Park and Goblin Valley State Park; both

of which earned their dark sky designation in the summer of 2016. Other state parks within the

division are also looking to begin their designation application process.

To celebrate, Antelope Island State Park is hosting a Star Party on August 26. Members of the

Ogden Astronomical Society will be there to assist and will have telescopes ready. The

celebration starts at 6 p.m. and deep space viewing starts at dark.

Those visiting Antelope Island can visit the Utah State Parks website at stateparks.utah.gov to

check for any upcoming activities and events. For a dark sky experience, keep an eye open for

the Antelope Island star parties and other interpretive dark sky events. Join us for an

experience you’ll remember forever.

Chaffetz will not seek re-election — or any other office — in 2018

By  Lisa Riley Roche @dnewspolitics

SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, announced Wednesday he is not running for re-election — or any other office — in 2018.

Chaffetz, 50, said in a Facebook post he has "made a personal decision to return to the private sector." He told the Deseret News last year he was interested in running for governor when Gov. Gary Herbert's term ends in 2020.

"Maybe" was Chaffetz's answer Wednesday when asked whether he would seek the governorship.

"I'm not trying to close the door or open the door to anything in the future," he said. "I'm trying to be as candid as I can."

That means returning to the private sector for what he suggested could be a communications position — at least for now. Chaffetz told KSL Newsradio's Doug Wright he could make a decision about another run for office in "a couple of years."

"But here, early in 2017, I'm not willing to commit one direction or another," he said. "I expect to be involved and engaged in politics. I'm not walking totally away. I want to have a voice out there. I enjoy that part of it."

Chaffetz, who said he continues to sleep on a cot in his congressional office while he's in Washington, repeatedly said he made the decision not to run because he wants to spend more time with his family.

He said his announcement makes it clear he will not run for Sen. Orrin Hatch's seat next year. Hatch, R-Utah, first elected in 1976, has not yet said for sure whether he will seek re-election.

Although Chaffetz easily won a fifth term in 2016, he was facing a tough campaign for the 3rd District seat next year with Democrat Kathryn Allen, who already has raised more money than him, and Republicans eyeing the race — including Provo Mayor John Curtis.

Curtis said Wednesday Chaffetz's decision not to run gave him pause, but he stopped short of jumping in the race.

Earlier this year, a raucous crowd turned out at a town hall meeting, many demanding that Chaffetz, as chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, investigate President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican.

Chaffetz had pushed hard against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, and had promised the committee had "years of material" against her had she won in November.

A recent UtahPolicy.com poll showed a 14-point drop in support since February 2016 for Chaffetz, down to 52 percent.

"For those that would speculate otherwise, let me be clear that I have no ulterior motives. I am healthy. I am confident I would continue to be re-elected by large margins. I have the full support of Speaker (Paul) Ryan to continue as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee," he said in his Facebook post.

The surprise announcement made national news, with response from both the Democratic National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“Chaffetz refused to hold Trump and his family accountable for using the presidency to pad their bank accounts at the expense of Americans,” DNC deputy communications director Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

But National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers said "Chaffetz has been a valuable member of the Republican team." He said the GOP is confident the party can keep his largely Utah County seat.

“Republicans have a deep bench of talented candidates in Utah who are more than up to this challenge," Stivers said. "The NRCC is very confident in our ability to keep this seat red in November 2018.”

Research Round-Up: A Deeper Look at Ballooning Trade, Hotel, Consumer Confidence Numbers

By: David Huether, Senior Vice President of Research, U.S. Travel Association

Each month, the U.S. Travel Association sends its members the U.S. Travel Outlook, which provides insight into the current state of the economy and related travel industry trends, plus other relevant data from the travel and tourism sector.

Here’s a sampling of some of March 2017’s most compelling findings from the U.S. Travel Research team. 

U.S. Exports Are Up, But What About Inbound Travel?

The Commerce Department this month reported that total U.S. exports of goods and services increased by $1 billion in January 2017, to $192 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $48.5 billion—the largest since March 2012. The agency’s March release included revisions showing that overall exports made a meaningful recovery during the second half of 2016—and in January, U.S. exports grew 7.4 percent over the same time last year, the fastest 12-month pace in roughly five years.

International travel, which remains America’s second-largest industry exportand largest service export, merits watching in the coming months, especially in the wake of high-profile executive orders on visas and immigration. Spending by international visitors edged down at the beginning of 2017, from $12.9 billion in December to $12.8 billion in January—but the Trump administration’s initial “travel ban” executive order was issued January 27, so next month’s trade data should provide a clearer picture of the executive orders’ impact on international visitation.

 

Consumer Confidence At a Record High, Though Experts Urge Caution

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Survey reached a 15-year highin February, indicating that consumers generally expect the economy to continue expanding in the months ahead. Similarly, the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index, which gauges consumer opinion of current and future economic events, remained positive in March.

However, economic experts, including Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, caution that consumer sentiment/confidence, however positive, may not actually impact spending. This is corroborated by January 2017’s consumer spending data, which showed that Americans have yet to act on this sky-high confidence by opening their wallets.

 

How Is the Hotel Industry Doing? 

Travel jobs were up in multiple sectors last month, but especially lodging. That’s logical, considering that 2017 is off to a good start for the U.S. hotel industry. Overall hotel room occupancy grew to 54.1 percent, while revenue per available room (RevPAR) jumped 3.8 percent from January 2016-2017, and total room revenue increased 5.7 percent. January 2017, in fact, marked the industry’s 83rdconsecutive month with a year-over-year increase in RevPar, with research firm STR noting that these were the best January results on record.

However, revenue will likely begin to taper off soon, and hotel managers will likely try to contain costs in order to increase profitability—and this usually means pressure on complimentary services and amenities. In short: the hotel industry is enjoying greater and greater profits, but that may soon end—and free breakfasts may go with it, for now.

 

A deeper dive into the data available in the March 2017 U.S. Travel Outlook—which includes the latest data on travel employment, transportation, lodging metrics and more—is online here.

U.S. Travel Association members receive the full U.S. Travel Outlook, plus a myriad of other cutting-edge research reports with information relevant to the travel industry. Learn more about the benefits of becoming a member here—or simply continue to enjoy a small taste of U.S. Travel’s research insight each month here, with the Research Round-Up.