Zion National Park, Utah

During the U.S. Travel Association annual ESTO conference Aug. 27-30 in Boca Raton, Florida, 28 members of the organizations were honored for their accomplishments in destination marketing and imaginative promotional programing.

Vicki Varela of the Utah Office of Tourism, Film and Global Branding was named State Tourism Director of the Year by  the National Council of State Tourism Directors (NCSTD). The award recognizes a state tourism director who has successfully raised the profile of his or her state as a travel and tourism destination. Prior to ESTO, state tourism directors from U.S. states and territories voted for the individual exhibiting the most impressive achievements in destination marketing.

Utah’s current advertising campaign features the slogan “The Road to Mighty.” And as the video says, “the road begins at visitutah.com.” The Mighty 5 refers to Utah’s five magical national parks.

Arches National Park is accessible from the southeastern town of Moab. Take the 40-mile scenic drive through a fantasyland of strange shapes and textures, molded into gargoyles, towers, hoodoos (tall, skinny rock spires shooting up from basins or gorges), impossibly balanced boulders and, of course arches. Keep an eye out for the color contrasts, as the blue skies seem to pierce holes in the golden rock formations.

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah, Bryce can list alpine among its varied eco-systems, because it’s at an altitude of 8,000 to 9,000 feet. As a result, you’ll find animal and plant life there, as well as geometric formations you won’t find at other Utah parks. In fact, many groups of hoodoos seem to have been carved into red-rock amphitheaters. Some believe the color saturation is deeper here than at other Utah parks, as well.

Canyonlands National Park is located in southeastern Utah near Moab. It across 527 sq. mi. of gorges, canyons, buttes, mesas and spires. It contains what could amount to thousands of square miles of slick rock, and the tiny microsystems and habitats that flourish in it. This park is an artists’ palette that only nature could create. The “canvas” changes almost by the minute as the sun makes its way across the sky. Moab Adventure Center can take your group on tours of Canyonlands or Arches national parks—on foot, by bus, on rafts and even in the air.

Capitol Reef National Park features broad vistas stretching for miles, no sign of human life (or automobiles), stark geometric forms shooting straight up, rock ridges flowing gently and rocks that somehow form swirls, Capitol Reef appears almost out of a science fiction movie about life on another planet. It’s less visited than the more-famous parks in the state, which means it sometimes feels as if you have it all to yourself.

Zion National Park offers 147,000 acres of high plateaus, deep canyons and stark formations. One of the best ways to experience it is by stepping into the Virgin River and looking up; you’ll see the colorfully delineated strata and sediment that came from millions of years of wind and rain. Zion is known for the immense walls of red and white Navajo sandstone that shoot 2,000 feet up. Take a guided interpretive walk or challenge yourself to high-adventure in narrow slot canyons.

Mercury and Destiny Awards

Also during ESTO, the Destiny Awards recognized excellence in destination marketing on the local and regional level, while the Mercury Awards recognize this accomplishment on the state level. A judging panel of industry leaders from companies including National Geographic, Fathom, Ogilvy Public Relations, McGarry Bowen, Facebook and Google selected a total of 26 winners for these two award categories.

Destination Marketing Rising Star

The Destinations Council named Carla Fiorita of the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau as the 2016 DMO Rising Star of the Year. This award recognizes the achievement of an individual who has worked for a destination marketing organization for three years or less, but already made significant contributions to the travel and tourism industry.

ESTO is the premier national forum for destination marketing professionals from local, state and regional levels to share ideas and expertise. ESTO provides an opportunity for destination professionals to learn about new tools and techniques, share best practices, and debate pressing issues affecting destinations in a non-sales environment.