Louisiana hit an all-time record for tourism in 2013 — a million more visitors than the prior year’s record-setting numbers, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Monday.

By the numbers: 27.3 million visitors spent $10.8 billion and contributed $800 million in state tax revenues.

Some 700,000 of the visitors traveled to markets outside New Orleans.

“It’s validation of what we have been saying. Tourism is big business in Louisiana,” Dardenne said.

And it means jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics put the number at 210,000 tourism-related jobs last year.

“There’s no question it is a major employer for the state,” Dardenne said.

Dardenne released the tourism impact numbers from the University of New Orleans Louisiana forecast report during a Louisiana Tourism Promotion Association luncheon in Baton Rouge.

Dardenne said the numbers were fueled by the Super Bowl in New Orleans, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Finals and other major type events.

“It’s particularly encouraging when the nation is still recovering from the downturn,” said Dardenne.

“I think it’s vindication our message is catching on,” said Dardenne, referring to tourism’s “Pick Your Passion” campaign promoting Louisiana’s diversity.

Dardenne created the brand after taking office in 2010. Each year since, the visitor statistics have grown.

The Louisiana Office of Tourism was selected the Southeast Tourism Society’s 2013 State Tourism Office of the Year. It became the second state tourism office to receive international accreditation.

Dardenne put in a push to be able to retain $3 million to $4 million in additional marketing dollars from a fund that has been raided to pay for other items in the state budget.

“We are doing great with what we have got,” said Dardenne. But, “if we expand our footprint, there is every reason to expect an even better increase in the number of visitors.”

Dardenne said LouisianaTravel.com is experiencing increases in its traffic, too, as people are going online to make travel decisions.

According to agency statistics, the website last year had more than 1.8 million unique visitors, representing a 32 percent annual increase, and 4.1 million page views, an 18 percent annual increase.

Other 2013 tourism numbers released by Dardenne’s office included:

  • The average daily rates for rooms jumped to $107.04 from $102.36 in 2012.
  • Hotels sold 20 million stays.
  • More than 11.6 million passengers arrived at or departed from Louisiana airports.