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.

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

“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.

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.