Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. speaks at an Outdoor Industry Association breakfast, saying he wants to market Utah's assets to add 5 million tourists a year.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. wants to market Utah's outdoor assets in an "unprecedented" fashion in order to add 5 million tourists — and $1.5 billion — to the state's annual economy.

That's in addition to the 17 million tourists who visit Utah each year, Huntsman told about 400 retailers Saturday at an Outdoor Industry Association breakfast meeting in Salt Lake City.

And he's willing to spend $10 million on the marketing effort.

In the past, Huntsman said, there has been $850,000 or $1 million here and there spent on promoting Utah. Many people, he added, thought the 2002 Winter Olympics would be the answer to Utah's tourism dreams.

"We've got to earn that travel and tourism," Huntsman said.

The governor talked about adding $10 million to put on a "first-rate" name brand marketing campaign for Utah.

Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, is sponsoring the bill, SB7, that would secure the money Huntsman wants for promoting Utah tourism. Senate Majority Leader Pete Knudson, R-Brigham City, recently said Utah has been "slow in catching on" in terms of promoting Utah.

Huntsman began his speech to retailers by reminding them he is the first governor to address their twice-yearly Outdoor Retailer show, which landed in Utah in 1996. Huntsman said other governors either weren't "willing" or didn't have the time and that he would emphasize continuous communication with show organizers, who report adding about $32 million to the Utah economy.

Retailer exhibits in the Salt Palace for the 2005 winter show are up to 711 over last year's 685, according to Peter Devin, director of Outdoor Retailer, which is owned and managed by Virginia-based VNU Expositions Inc. It's why the Salt Palace is currently in the midst of a $55 million expansion, part of which Devin said should be ready by the summer 2006 show.

Outdoor Retailer announced last August it would stay in Utah for at least five more years, contingent on the expansion of the Salt Palace Convention Center and a state commitment to protecting state recreational areas.

Huntsman drew the applause of retailers when he spoke out against "shrinking" the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, despite reports earlier this month that the state wants to reduce the size of the 1.7 million-acre site.

With lawsuits ongoing over the monument, Huntsman said he wants "input" on cases that involve the 1906 Antiquities Act, which former President Bill Clinton is alleged to have violated in creating the monument.

Huntsman stressed open communication with retailers and Outdoor Industry Association President Frank Hugelmeyer, who the governor joked has been in his office or on the phone with him more than anyone else in his first 30 days in office. Hugelmeyer referred to Huntsman as a "friend" of the industry in his introduction of the governor.

State rural affairs coordinator Gayle McKeachnie will be a vital link in that line of communication with retailers, environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts, Huntsman said. McKeachnie wants a state public lands policy office that would deal directly with the federal government.

Huntsman ended his address by thanking Outdoor Retailer for keeping its show in Utah. "We want to earn your confidence," he said. "We want to earn your support."

E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com