South Dakota sees record tourism year in 2016

By  | 

Rapid City, SD South Dakota saw another record-breaking tourism season last year according to new reports.

Dan Senftner, the President of Destination Rapid City, said "We're fun, exciting, clean. It's well taken care of and there's always something going on. And that's really the difference."

It's good news for one of South Dakota's biggest industries - 2016 marks seven straight years of growth in tourism numbers.

Anthony Kitchens, a manager at Prairie Edge, said "A good season for us. People came in from all over the world. A lot of people were traveling from national park to national park."

Rapid City's Prairie Edge saw the crowds starting Memorial Day Weekend.

Kitchens said "It's like a light switch. It just turns on and you start seeing travelers come in."

According to a new study, the Mount Rushmore State saw more than 13 million visitors in 2016 and the economy got a $2.5 billion dollar boost from spending.

That's more than a 4 percent jump over 2015's numbers and some say Rapid City was a big hit.

Senftner said "We're a highlight. We've got more impact than I expected."

Experts say community involvement along with new businesses and renovations keep Rapid City on the map for tourists.

And the Department of Tourism is ramping up spending on marketing even more - including overseas in 2017.

Senftner said "That's a big deal. That's going to make an impact."

Managers at Prairie Edge say the Black Hills offers a fusion of culture - including its Lakota roots.

Kitchens said "We just have a unique culture here. Something you don't really see anywhere else in the country."

And they're looking ahead to the upcoming season - with new products for shoppers.

Kitchens said "I'm looking forward to the summer - the 2017 season."

The 2016 tourism season also supported more than 53 thousand jobs and produced $279 million dollars in state and local tax dollars.