UNDATED - Tourism is big business in Minnesota.  Explore Minnesota Tourism Executive Director John Edman says the industry brings in nearly $12 billion in gross sales every year, and it creates almost 240,000 full-and-part-time jobs.

Source: Explore Minnesota Tourism

Sales at leisure and hospitality businesses grew by 47 percent from 2000 to 2011.

Edman also says when you have one season that extends into another, like this year's winter season, there are a lot of pluses and minuses.

Edman says the state's summer tourism season kicks into high gear this coming weekend, with the fishing opener.

Tourists from the upper Midwest account for most of the growth.  But he says international tourism is picking-up.

Source: Explore Minnesota Tourism

Edman says their reasons for coming to Minnesota varies.  He says tourists from Asian countries generally come for the Mall of America and shopping, German tourists are mostly interested in the outdoors and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and those from Scandinavian countries come to find out about their heritage and their ancestors who immigrated here.

The tri-county area employs over 10,600 private sector jobs directly related to the tourism industry.