ST. PAUL — Minnesota's tourism industry raked in $16 billion-worth of gross sales in 2018, making it the strongest year for that figure on record.

According to newly released figures from state tourism agency Explore Minnesota, that's an increase of approximately 4.5% from 2017. Director John Edman attributed the bump to the agency's aggressive marketing efforts and an economy that encouraged spending.

"I think the tourism industry has been steadily growing over the years because of the good economy," he said.

Minnesota is aided, he said, by a wealth of natural and recreational resources that appeal to increasingly sensation-seeking consumers. Gross sales figures have increased each year for the past several years.

Money spent on travel, lodging, shopping, recreation and food generated a little more than $1 billion in state sales tax revenue in 2018, according to the figures, or approximately 18% of the total collected that year. It paid for approximately $6 billion in wages for the 275,000 full-time and part-time workers that the industry employs.

Agency figures show that room rental revenue growth, meanwhile, slowed as Edman said was expected to 1.6% in 2019. Officials blame the dip on the 2018 Super Bowl, which accounted for stronger-than-usual growth of 8.4% that year.

Most of Minnesota's tourism dollars are generated in the metro area, which accounted for approximately $11 billion-worth of gross sales in 2018. Southern and central Minnesota reported the second and third highest gross sales figures at approximately $1.7 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively.