Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt stopped at the lake Thursday to applaud the efforts of tourism officials, the leaders of the second largest industry in the state.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt stopped at the lake Thursday to applaud the efforts of tourism officials, the leaders of the second largest industry in the state.   Blunt spoke at the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism. The three-day conference ends Friday.   It is a culmination of Missouri’s hospitality, natural beauty and the efforts of local tourism officials that continues to make the industry a vital part of the state economy, he said.   “Tourism is booming in our state,” Blunt said.   In 2006, Missouri ranked 13th in the nation for the number of visitors, representing a record $13 billion economic impact.   “They are all here for a common purpose, to visit our state and enjoy all that Missouri has to offer,” Blunt said.   Missouri Division of Tourism Director Blaine Luetkemeyer said Blunt’s presence at the conference showed his overall support for their efforts to market all the state has to offer. Luetkemeyer praised the governor’s commitment to the tourism industry that has included increasing the division’s annual budget.   DOT’s 2008 budget is $21.7 million, the highest in the division’s history.   Another highlight this week was the unveiling of a new state advertising slogan, “Missouri. Close to home, far from ordinary.”   “The new slogan is designed to appeal to the emotion of families and create memories,” Tri-County Lodging Association Director Jim Divincen said. Divincen is also the vice-chair of the Missouri Division of Tourism.   While the state is spending more to promote Missouri as a destination, he said there are a number of noticeable trends at Lake of the Ozarks.   “Here at home, smaller resorts are selling to condominium developments, which provides a big opportunity to us to continue to attract new, first-time visitors,” Divincen said.   Overall, visitors are still taking more trips, just for shorter periods of time, he said, and smaller groups are on the rise.   Contact this reporter at charisp@lakesunleader.com.