The war was short and sweet, the troops are beginning to return home and Utah is getting one of its major industries, tourism, back on the fast track.
"The signs are really good," said Jay Woolley, director of the Utah Division of Travel Development. "Our ski industry hasn't suffered much from the effects of the war - we haven't had a lot of cancellations - and there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm, especially since we keep getting new snow."Airline bookings are once again moving up after suffering a steep decline over the fall and winter due to fears of Iraqi terrorism. Aviation fuel price hikes late last year that raised ticket prices were also blamed. The International Air Transport Association estimates that, because of massive losses in January and February, the world airline industry will lose more than $2 billion this year.
"In general, we have seen a pickup in both phone calls to our reservations offices and in bookings," confirmed Jackie Pate, spokeswoman for Delta Air Lines. "Our advance bookings are in double digits compared to this time last year."
Trans-Atlantic flights were hardest hit during the crisis in the Persian Gulf and have been the first to rebound, said Pate.
Delta is now enjoying growth in both domestic and international flights, she said. "People aren't afraid to fly overseas anymore so we hope the worst is over. A lot of people were hesitant to plan a summer vacation, but that's now changing."
Randy Hunt, executive vice president of Morris Travel, agreed that international travel "went off the edge of the world" after the shooting began.
"Airlines, travel agencies and hotels had a terrible January and part of February," said Hunt. He said most Utah companies kept to their travel schedules through the summer, fall and early winter of Operation Desert Shield, but that changed on Jan. 16, the deadline for Iraq to get out of Kuwait.
"Once the bombs started falling, they began to cancel 10 at a time," he said.
Now, said Hunt, that business is making an aggressive comeback.
Domestic travel also suffered somewhat during the initial stages of the war, he said, but that segment is coming back more gradually.
"People were awestruck," said Hunt. "It seemed like the general mood was not only the fear of terrorist attack but also a bad mix of the depressed economy as well. People stayed home and watched TV rather than even go to Disneyland."
One bright note for his company, said Hunt, was Morris Air Travel, whose charter flights "maintained a brisk business through it all."
Overall, he said, the airlines are now looking to rebound. "There are a lot of good fares out there for people to buy before April 8. They are a lot looser than they were in the fall."
In retrospect, Utah's share of the travel dollar came through the gulf crisis relatively unscathed. Compared to New York, for example, which lost some 30-40 percent of its travel business during the war, Rick Davis, president of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitor's Bureau, estimates Salt Lake City lost only 2-3 percent.
"There were some dramatic decreases (nationally) in hotel occupancies and arrivals of air travelers during the war," said Davis, "but from our meetings with hotel managers it's clear that there was much less impact here."
Clearly, those cities with the most international travel were hit the hardest by the fear of terrorism, said Davis, as were those areas of the country in which the economic recession is most pronounced, such as New England.
"The strength of our local economy vis a vis the soft economy in the rest of the country was part of it, and (Salt Lake's) image as a clean, safe, family destination, with not much fear of crime and terrorism, helped us through it."
The lack of snow at many ski resorts around the country didn't hurt, either. "We've benefited from a very strong ski season," said Davis.