Salt Lake Defies Expectations for Visitors and Groups

A Sponsored Article From Visit Salt Lake

Author: Curt Wagner       

Visit Salt Lake Downtown skyline

Salt Lake City stands out amid the natural beauty of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, but it has more to offer than a city-meets-outdoors vibe. (Courtesy Visit Salt Lake)

Salt Lake is a city of juxtapositions: It lies between two scenic mountain ranges and in the midst of their jaw-dropping natural beauty, yet it is a lively metropolis with inventive dining, a rich cultural scene, and engaging options for convention planners.

Building off that city-meets-outdoors dynamic, Visit Salt Lake recently launched a new brand campaign, called “West of Conventional,” that highlights how things that don’t necessarily go together often complement each other in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area.

Visit Salt Lake ASAE16

Salt Lake has hosted many high-profile, large events, including the ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo 2016. (Sean Buckley photo)

The purpose of the campaign is to educate would-be visitors — as well as planners and their groups — about what they might find surprising about Utah’s capital city. “We are passionate about our place and excited to educate would-be travelers about our secret gems,” said Kaitlin Eskelson, president & CEO of Visit Salt Lake.

Among those gems is the Salt Palace Convention Center, which has hosted a variety of high-profile groups in the past, including Rotary International and the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Salt Lake and its sustainability efforts captured the attention of the United Nations, which brought its 68th UN Civil Society Conference, with more than 4,000 attendees, to the city in 2019. The event was a zero-emissions success story.

Another surprising find for visitors, according to a “West of Conventional” campaign video (watch below): “tech start-ups flourish alongside natural vistas.” In fact, Salt Lake was second only to Austin, Texas, in the Winter 2019-20 Inc. list of “Surge Cities” for tech startups. It is home to Artemis Health, Anonyome Labs, PassiveLogic, and Voxpopme, among other hot startups. More than 90 tech companies call Salt Lake City home, including Overstock.com and Quickbase.

Utah Pride

LGBTQ+ friendly Salt Lake is home to the Utah Pride Center and the annual Utah Pride Parade and Festival. (Austen Diamond Photography)

And who would have expected the LGBTQ+ community to be flourishing in Salt Lake? But as the campaign makes clear, Salt Lake is where “traditional outlooks mingle with progressive ideals.” Take, for example, the philosophy of Moudi Sbeity, who is co-owner of Laziz Kitchen with his ex-husband, Utah Sen. Derek Kitchen. “We see Laziz beyond a restaurant — it’s a gathering space of acceptance, good food, and love. We are proudly queer, we hire refugees, and we have an open-arms policy to anyone that walks through our doors,” he said in a Salt of the Earth blog post.

Sbeity, who immigrated to Salt Lake from Lebanon when he was 18, and Kitchen were among three couples who successfully sued in 2013 to legalize gay marriage in Utah.

The new campaign suggests that Salt Lake is “a little bit hallowed ground” and a lot of “breaking new ground” — and the destination’s efforts in building or expanding are ample. After a major update that increased capacity and created a better experience for groups convening in the city, the “new” Salt Lake City International Airport opened in September 2020.



Also with groups in mind, three new hotels — the city’s first-ever convention hotel among them — are scheduled to be completed in 2022. The $377-million Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City is being built into the southeast corner of the Salt Palace Convention Center. The 26-story hotel will add 700 guest rooms to the convention district, bringing the total number to 8,000. It will house 60,000 square feet of state-of-the-art indoor meeting space, including a 23,138-square-foot Regency Ballroom and a 14,682-square-foot junior ballroom.

The dual-branded Le Meridian and Element by Marriott hotels are part of a development that will connect the West Quarter district to the convention district. The hotels will have a combined 272 guest rooms, rooftop bar, and approximately 12,000 square feet of meeting space. They are adjacent to the Vivint Smart Home Arena, home of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, and within walking distance to Temple Square and City Creek.

Groups and other travelers visiting the city before next year will see that the new Salt Lake campaign is more than a series of advertisements. As part of the campaign, Visit Salt Lake is offering qualified travelers either a pair of two-day Visit Salt Lake Connect Passes or a pair of three-day Visit Salt Lake Brewery Passes. The free passes, available to those booking two or more nights in participating Salt Lake lodging properties, show off the eclectic attractions and breweries that can be found “West of Conventional.”

Salt Lake — West of Conventional