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The theme of the Governor’s Conference on Tourism was dubbed “The Power of Fun.”

But David Zucker and Robert Hays, known for their work with the “Airplane” movies, took that theme a step further on Monday.

They turned a ballroom at Monona Terrace into the city’s largest comedy club and later, during a press conference, had no qualms interrupting Gov. Scott Walker when he was trying to answer a question about his views on gay marriage.

“These questions are just distracting from the governor’s efforts to promote gay tourism,” Zucker kidded.

But the reason for the appearance by Zucker, a Shorewood native, and Hays was no joke.

The wise-cracking tandem are using their slapstick experience to draw more visitors to Wisconsin where tourism has a $16 billion economic impact and attracting international tourists is getting more attention.

A 30-second commercial directed by Zucker and starring Hays, who plays a stumbling fisherman, was unveiled Monday to a room of more than 1,000 members of the state’s tourism industry. They also learned that Zucker and Hays, who filmed a comical Wisconsin winter tourism spot in 2011, will do a third commercial highlighting all of the state’s seasons and will get Hays back in the pilot’s seat. The spot, which will show the state from the view of a low-flying airplane, is scheduled to run in 2014.

“It’s going to be what we would call a sort of zany flyover of Wisconsin,” said Dave Fantle, deputy secretary of the state Department of Tourism.

The spot will include fall footage in La Crosse, snowmobiling in Eagle River and skiing at Granite Peak on Rib Mountain near Wausau. More footage will be filmed this summer with Hays acting in and Zucker directing the cockpit scenes on a Hollywood lot.

Filming for the commercial shown Monday was done last summer on Plum Lake near Sayner, located northwest of Eagle River. The spot shows Hays trying to fish from a dock but snagging a minnow bucket. He crashes head-first through a foam cooler, falls off the dock onto an inner tube, which is then towed at a high rate of speed. It culminates with Hays’ character catapulting off a water-ski jump and landing back onto the dock where he is slapped repeatedly in the head by a giant muskie.

The commercial ends with a voice-over by Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett.

“It doesn’t take any special skill to enjoy Wisconsin,” Klett says in the spot. “Just drop in.”

The tourism conference opened on Sunday and will conclude Tuesday.

Tourism spending numbers for 2012 won’t be released until May, but officials said they were optimistic that there was growth in spending last year. Officials were also pleased that funding levels for the next two years could be going up.

State tourism received an increase of $2.5 million per year in Walker’s 2011-13 budget. However, over those two years, $1.1 million was taken out of tourism’s budget. In his proposed budget for the 2013-15 biennium, Walker restores that $1.1 million and adds another $500,000.

Of the new money, $300,000 has been earmarked for public relations and attracting meetings, conventions and sporting events to the state. The department will spend $200,000 to market the state to international audiences in Canada, Japan and Brazil.

Spending in Wisconsin by international tourists was estimated at $600 million in 2011.

“That’s a market we’re really going to focus on,” Klett said. “The potential is huge.”

(c)2013 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.