Not even Superstorm Sandy could wash away an historic tourist season last year in New Jersey.

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Gov. Chris Christie said tourism accounted for nearly $40 billion, up from $38 billion in 2011. He made the announcement at a tourism conference in Atlantic City on Wednesday.

About 82.5 million visitors came to New Jersey last year, an increase of nearly 5 percent over 2011 levels.

The storm hit on Oct. 29, after the summer tourism season had ended. Many tourism-related businesses and shore communities said good weather during the summer led to a good season through Labor Day weekend.

"While these 2012 results are positive and encouraging, we are still facing the challenges of the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy," the Governor said. "We must continue to look to the future and continue the steady progress of rebuilding.

Tourism is New Jersey's third-largest industry, after pharmaceuticals and chemicals.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Townsquare Media's Dino Flammia contributed to this report.