By Jack Fink

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Visit Dallas, formerly known as the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the number of international tourists (excluding Mexico and Canada) shot up by 33 percent in Dallas-Plano-Irving area last year from 2014.

The city is tied with Seattle for second in growth. New Orleans saw a 37 percent increase in overseas visitors.

Statistics by the U.S. Commerce Department show there were 545,000 overseas visitors in 2015, up from 409,000 the year earlier. In all, 2,772,915 international tourists visited the Dallas-Fort Worth area last year. Most — 1,906,371 — are from Mexico and 263,544 visited from Canada in 2015.

“We are a hot destination right now,” said Phillip Jones, CEO of Visit Dallas.

He said Visit Dallas started marketing to European, Asian, and South American countries ten years ago, and the number of visitors from there rose sharply last year from 2014. “We’ve seen really solid growth in the last ten years, with exceptional growth the last three or four years. We’ve seen almost triple in the last four years. That’s something we’re going to continue to work because we see a huge opportunity for Dallas.”

In June, The Michelin Green Guide named Dallas a three-star city, its highest rating. That same month, Skift named Visit Dallas’ website among the top 25 in the world. Stacey Palmor and Ricky Morrissey are visiting Dallas’ Dealey Plaza from Australia.

They said they’re drawn to the spot where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. “I’m just amazed I’m actually here because I’ve watched so many documentaries and stuff like that. I’m just really excited.”

Jones said they recently hosted a journalist from Australia, who produced a half hour show about Dallas for a tv network there. Alessandra Menke and Marcello Victorino of Brazil are visiting Big D for their first time too. “Pretty cool, People are friendly. Food is very good, especially the steaks.”

He says on average, international visitors spend about $800 a day, that’s four times the amount of visitors from the U.S.

“They spend more, they stay longer, they go back and tell friends and family what a great destination Dallas and Texas is,” said Jones.

Jones said tourism is responsible for one in ten jobs here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Additionally, tourism provides $8.5 billion in economic impact in the region with $4.5 billion in direct spending. Of that, international tourism contributes $1 billion.

Despite the number of attractions, the number one activity by international tourists is shopping. The manager at Wild Bill’s Western Store in Dallas’ West End, Bruce Bean said he meets visitors from all over the world everyday.

“They don’t come in here to just look, they’re coming here and buying our products. It’s good.”

Victorino wants to bring a piece of Texas home and Menke joked, “He won’t leave Texas without a hat.”

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