MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Travel officials say the Twin Cities metro area welcomed 34.5 million visitors in 2018, an increase of nearly 4% over 2017.

Meet Minneapolis, a group that promotes the City of Lakes as a travel destination, says that according to research data last year’s visitors spent roughly $8 billion in the metro area, a 3.3% increase in year-over-year spending.

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In a statement, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said these numbers show the important role that tourism and hospitality play in the region’s economy.

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“These serious increases in visitors and visitor spending in the Minneapolis region means we’re moving in the right direction for achieving one of our goals: showing the rest of the world that Minneapolis is a world-class destination,” the mayor said.

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Major events that led to the boost in visitors last year were the Super Bowl, the Women Engineers Conference and the American Legion’s 100th National Convention.