Hoping to snag a big bite of the $60 billion spent nationwide on conventions and tourism, Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau officials rolled out the red carpet this week for national meeting planners.

Nineteen planners from all over the United States touched down Wednesday in Salt Lake City for a three-day tour highlighting all the reasons they should book conventions in the area.Bureau officials say the "fam tour," or familiarization tour, will convince the representatives that Salt Lake City is the place for big conventions.

"Other than a few hours of free time each day, we'll keep them on the move until they depart on Saturday," said Richard Gilliland, vice president of the bureau. "They will be well supplied with all the right reasons to choose Salt Lake for their conventions."

The meeting planners, who represent more than 36,000 delegates and $19 million worth of revenue, will tour Park City, Snowbird and Temple Square and will eat breakfast at LaCaille at Quail Run restaurant, listen to the Tabernacle Choir and visit the city's night spots.

Representatives from a national barber shop singers organization say Salt Lake City is the ideal location for their 36,000 singers to have a convention.

"We're impressed with the conveniences - everything is so close," said Manager Ken Buckner. "The weather is cool, comfortable; and the city is clean."

Buckner says his group is considering Salt Lake City for its 1995 convention.

Other huge national organizations seem to be catching the "Salt Lake fever" as well.

Meeting planners from The National School Supply & Equipment Association said they're tired of using Las Vegas as their convention site.

"We're about Las Vegas-ed out, we've used it for quite a few years," said executive vice president Tim Holt. "Now we're looking for a new Western city to hold our conference at; Salt Lake looks great so far."

The fever translates to an 11.2 percent increase in hotel occupancy rates during the past 18 months, according to Gilliland.

"We've booked more conventions this year than any other year in the history of the bureau," he said.

"The tourism and convention business means big business for Utah; it's growing all the time," Gilliland said.

Tourism and conventions in Utah employ 60,000 people and account for millions of dollars in sales and income tax revenue.