MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- More than 33 million people visited the Twin Cities in 2017, which is the highest number of tourists in the metro area, ever.
People shopping at the Mall of America weren't surprised. Visitors from Colorado, California and even Australia agreed that much like the nation's largest mall, Minneapolis and St. Paul have something for everyone.
Plenty of tourist-driven shopping happens outside the mall, too. Spending was up to $7.8 billion in 2017, about two-and-a-half percent more than 2016, according to Meet Minneapolis and its Virginia-based research firm.
The study qualified a visitor as anyone who traveled to the metro area from at least 100 miles away.
Charles Long took planes and trains to get in from Florida, and he's not mad about it.
"The public transportation here is by far so easy to navigate," said Long.
That was one major goal, according to Meet Minneapolis CEO Melvin Tennant. He says the cities really focused on improving things visitors use, like transportation.
The next goal: Get to 50 million visitors by 2030. That's just a few million shy of Chicago. When asked if he believed the growth is sustainable, Tennant said yes.
"The public and private sectors continue to make these improvements on the infrastructure," said Tennant.
As for people who call Minneapolis and St. Paul home, Tennant notes the growth in tourism adds millions of dollars to the cities' tax revenues and helps support more than 36,000 jobs.
"The people that make their living in travel and tourism really help keep the promises that we make in convincing visitors to come here," said Tennant.
Peak travel time is typically between May and October, based on hotel occupancy data.
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