Tourism is now a $5.8 billion dollar industry in Iowa. Iowa Tourism Office Manager Nancy Landess on Monday released new statistics from the Travel Industry Association. She says tourism spending in Iowa increased by 8.4% last year, compared to the national average of 7.3%.

Landess delivered the news at the 2007 Iowa Tourism Conference, taking place this week in Dubuque. Dubuque County experienced a 10.3% growth in tourism spending in 2006. Landess credits the new National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. The Tourism Conference is taking place next door in the new Grand River Center and resort hotel.

Overall, the state had 30 million visitors in 2006, a 1.6% increase from ’05. "Polk County also grew at a faster rate," Landess said, "and some of the developments in Burlington have shown an increase (in tourism)." Landess says most out of state visitors are coming from Illinois. Des Moines County, which borders Illinois, had the biggest tourism spending growth in the state at nearly 15%. Last year was the first full year for FunCity, a family entertainment center located in Burlington.

Audio: Radio Iowa’s Pat Curtis reports. :45 MP3