PIERRE, S.D. — For the ninth year in a row, South Dakota saw increased growth in tourism to the state in 2018, according to newly released data.

According to a new study by Tourism Economics, a company that specializes in tourism data, 14.1 million tourists visited South Dakota in 2018 — a bump of 1.4 percent from 2017 numbers. Those 14.1 million people spent $3.98 billion in the state — up 2.5 percent from 2017 — and the tourism industry as a whole contributed to $298 million in state and local taxes.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem and Secretary of Tourism Jim Hagen told reporters Thursday, Jan. 17, that tourism, the state's number two industry behind agriculture, contributed $2.66 billion to the state's gross domestic product in 2018, making up 5.2 percent of the state's economy.

Hagen said tourism numbers saw a boost last year, despite an unusually rainy summer. August, September and October saw the most significant growth, he said.

"Tourism in South Dakota is big business," Noem said. "Whether it's places like Mt. Rushmore National Memorial or the world's only Corn Palace, we put a unique spin and spotlight on South Dakota each and every year with our tourism industry."