It isn't difficult to tell when tourism increases in Salt Lake City.

Just count the number of times the 3 percent transient room tax is collected in Salt Lake County and it shows that in the first nine months of 1988 hotel and motel room sales increased 22 percent over the same period a year ago.Rick Davis, president of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, said 1988 has been the best-ever year for conventions in Salt Lake City, and tourism is also up. In downtown Salt Lake hotels, which account for almost 70 percent of the transient room taxes collected in Salt Lake County, occupancy increased from 70 percent year to 80 percent this year.

"That increase . . . has also allowed better price management and the resulting increase of revenue this year," Davis said. Of the room taxes collected in Salt Lake County, 67 percent goes for convention and tourism promotion and 33 percent goes to pay off bonds for convention facilities added to the Salt Palace in 1983.

Four years ago, the bureau was privatized and began contracting with the county for convention and tourism promotion. Since the privatization, annual sales of convention facilities for the future has increased from $7 million to $35 million, Davis said.

Because large national conventions schedule three to five years in advance, the bureau's efforts since the privatization are now beginning to pay off, Davis said.

Because of the increase in transient room taxes collected, Davis has submitted an increase in the bureau's budget to Salt Lake County from $2.2 million to $3 million. The new budget includes $2.2 million from transient room taxes, $350,000 from membership dues and other private sector revenues and $250,000 out of last year's reserve fund.

Ninety percent of the $800,000 budget increase will be spent on promotional programs such as sales trips to major market cities, bringing convention and tour group decision makers to Salt Lake City for site inspections, increased advertising and trade show attendance, new exhibit displays, audio/visual presentations, brochures and other promotional materials.

The other 10 percent will support two new staff members in the sales department.

The bureau spends 70 percent of its money promoting conventions and the effort is beginning to pay off, Davis said. Four years ago, the bureau sold 38,000 room nights and this year 180,000 room nights have been sold. The 1989 goal is to book 207,000 convention room nights for the future, a 15 percent increase over 1988.

Employees in the Tourism Department will have a $700,000 budget with 40 percent allocated for group tour sales, 35 percent for ski club and ski groups sales and 25 percent for visitors services. For the first time, the department has established goals for room night sales.

Davis estimates that group tours account for 90,000 room nights annually in Salt Lake County and the bureau's goal is to increase that by 10 percent or 9,000 room nights.

One of the biggest pushes for the group-tour employees comes Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 1989, when the National Tour Association holds its annual convention in the Salt Palace with 3,500 people expected to attend. Because of the convention, Davis expects tour bookings in Utah to increase dramatically in the next few years.

Promoting skiing is also a big part of the bureau's activities and the ski industry sales manager has a goal of 7,875 room nights booked for ski clubs and ski groups. New "Ski Salt Lake" posters and brochures will be distributed and new ski merchandise will promote the Salt Lake Valley and nearby ski resorts.