SD tourism industry hope for more workers post-pandemic

Published: May. 13, 2021 at 4:54 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - It’s been a whirlwind year for the tourism industry because of the impact of the COVID-19 virus. Many businesses are still feeling the crunch, especially ones that rely on foreign workers.

The industry is looking to bounce back after what some may consider a lost year due to the pandemic. However, it still faces challenges because of a worker shortage.

Michelle Thompson with Black Hills & Badlands Tourism said that the industry has long had a problem with staffing.

“The concern this year is definitely for the workforce,” Thompson said. “This has been an issue in the past, but this year it is a much bigger issue than it has been previously.”

There are now efforts to address unemployment in South Dakota’s second-largest industry.

Governor Kristi Noem recently announced a partnership between the state’s Departments of Tourism and Labor to prepare for a bounce-back year.

This is also an issue that some educators are addressing.

Black Hills State University has had a tourism and hospitality program since the 1960′s but recently changed it from a 4-year degree to a 16-month associate’s program.

Hans Nelson, director of that program, hopes this change in curriculum brings more people into the industry.

“The whole concept is, get students in, get them the experience they need, connect them with partners, learn the art of networking, and getting that experience needed to go out into the workforce when they graduate,” Nelson said. “So, it’s a cool program filled with all sorts of internships, site visits, guest speakers, it’s truly a great partnership with the city itself.”

Nelson sees high hopes for the future, as some students have transferred in to be part of the revised program.

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