(Heather Stewart, Utah Business) --Tourism seems to be on an upswing in Salt Lake County, according to Visit Salt Lake's 2012 annual report. The county logged a 9 percent increase in transient room revenue-a key indicator that tourism spending is ticking up.

"Transient room revenue is sort of the canary in the coal mine for the industry," said Scott Beck, CEO of Visit Salt Lake. He also noted that rental car revenue was up about 5 percent last year, while restaurant revenue rose by more than 4 percent.

Conventions did very well in 2012 as well, with higher-than-expected attendance and several new shows entering the Salt Lake market. Educational Training Services (ETS), an organization that creates and grades a variety of tests, brought 2,000 college professors to Salt Lake to grade Advanced Placement (AP) tests. Beck said that 2012 was the first year of a five-year contract with ETS.

The Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Shows brought a combined 48,000 visitors to Salt Lake-and the big news is that Outdoor Retailer committed to keep holding the shows in Utah through 2016.

The leisure transient market did well last year, said Beck, with the 2011-2012 ski season closing on a surprisingly positive note. The opening of City Creek in March 2012 had a lasting impact on tourism through the spring and summer months. "City Creek repositioned Salt Lake in terms of shopping," he said. The shopping destination attracted weekend travelers, who then took advantage of Salt Lake's cultural and recreational offerings as well.

Beck is optimistic about 2013 and said Visit Salt Lake projects 7 percent growth in tourism for this year. Several new conventions will be coming to Salt Lake this year, including the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, which will bring 6,000 people in April, and the American Trucking Association, which expects about 2,000 visitors in August.

At Visit Salt Lake's annual meeting on March 21, the organization presented Chris Peterson, VSL director of convention sales, with the Dianne Nelson Binger Sales Leadership Award. Peterson's efforts helped land six groups that will bring nearly 19,000 attendees, who are expected to spend an estimated $17 million in the city.

Some of the larger conventions booked by Peterson include the American Society of Agronomy, Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, and the IEEE Super Computing Conference.