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Nationally, South Dakota wasn’t too shabby tourism wise

South Dakota is only 13% below 2019.
South Dakota is only 13% below 2019.(KOTA)
Published: May. 6, 2021 at 7:14 PM MDT|Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 7:16 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Let’s talk about some documents. In particular, the 2020 annual tourism report.

Overall, South Dakota’s tourism appeal valiantly rivaled the national level.

Where all fifty states averaged a decline in visitation by a 42-percent, South Dakota saw a mere 13-percent dip.

Michelle Thomson, the CEO of Black Hills and Badlands tourism, isn’t completely dissatisfied with South Dakota’s 2020 year.

“While 2020 was a difficult year, and we’re looking forward to 2021, we faired much better than the rest of the country,” says Thomson.

Visitor spending was down nearly 20-percent. The food industry contributed roughly a quarter of that damage. Which, no doubt, could be influenced by closures and restrictions brought about by a worldwide pandemic.

Dan Tribby, the General Manager of Prairie Edge, is familiar with some of the businesses that felt that blow.

“Restaurants suffered last year,” says Tribby, “there’s just no doubt about that. Restaurants suffered.”

That’s not to say businesses might not yet reap some rewards from last years losses.

“I think they [customers] saved some money last year, just because they were being locked down. Now, they’re ready to make up for it,” says Tribby.

The Midwest faired particularly well given the circumstances. In fact, all of the states that border South Dakota ranked in the top 5 for “Arrivalists,” or people who spent time as a consumer in a market. Minnesota was number one, then Nebraska. Third, Iowa. Following that was North Dakota and finally Wyoming.

South Dakota had a variety of people come, compliments of 2020′s aura, that may have never thought to venture into the Black hills otherwise.

“We did here that there were people who had never considered South Dakota before, and discovered this area where they probably would have never known about us otherwise,” says Thomson. “We definitely did get visitors to the area who wouldn’t have come.”

Although flight data indicates that Rapid City and Sioux Falls saw half of the arrivals South Dakota normally sees, State Park visitors were up by 30-percent, and hopefully those who came by and saw the beauty embedded in the landscape will return. Afterall, things are predicted to bounce back quickly, forecasting that the numbers 2019 brought will return by 2024.

“We all kind of let 2020 just go away,” says Tribby, “ and I think the quicker we can forget 2020, the better.”

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