The St. George area's willingness to host the IRONMAN World Championships earlier this month paid off big, tourism officials say, with the area bringing in an estimated $41.7 million to the local economy.
The championship races held on May 7, which many said were the largest single-day events ever held in Washington County, drew huge crowds and are likely to impact the area in a myriad of ways by raising the St. George area's overall profile, according to tourism officials.
“Tourism and iconic events like IRONMAN drive the economic engine of our community,” said Kevin Lewis, director of the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office.
The immediate impact was significant, with most of the money representing dollars that were brought from outside the region and pumped directly into local businesses, but the longer-term impacts are likely to be even larger, Lewis said.
“The ripple effects of the taxes paid by these visitors as well as the eyes of the world being on our community as they follow the pinnacle IRONMAN World Championship race will continue to have positive impacts for years to come," he said.
Some 2,800 triathletes competed in the event, with participants representing all 50 states and more than 80 countires. In addition, they brought an estimated 12,000 guests and spectators with them. Many came to the area early to train for the race.
Based on surveys and other indicators, the tourism office estimated that the event resulted in more than 83,000 nights spent at area hotels and rentals. They frequented local restaurants.
Surveys done afterward also suggested that many planned to come back again later for vacations after getting a taste of Southern Utah’s signature red rock scenery.
The World Championship races are scheduled to return to Kona, Hawaii, but St. George will continue to host IRONMAN events, with the next one scheduled for October, when Washington County will host the 2022 Intermountain Healthcare IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.
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The 70.3-mile iteration of the race covers less of the county and should require fewer traffic impacts but it should also bring in plenty of money, with tourism officials already anticipating some $25-30 million in economic impact.
This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum & Daily News: IRONMAN brought $41.7M to St. George this time, officials say