Record breaking 2021 tourism numbers hit the Hills

Tourism Report
Tourism Report(Jeffrey Lindblom)
Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 5:49 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Visit Rapid City is reporting a record-breaking year for many local businesses and organizations.

And some, like Stacie Granum, Interim CEO and President of Visit Rapid City, are attributing these rising numbers to South Dakota and Rapid City’s relative lack of mandates designed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“2021 was record breaking for many,” Granum says. Many being organizations and businesses of all kinds through the Black Hills, like Visit Rapid City, who “had a great year.”

Demonstrated through hotel revenue, which Granum says is on the up more than 20-percent, “which is compared to 2019, which was a good year.”

Events like the Lakota Nation Invitational joining others to bring in nearly five-million dollars to the city.

Money that makes a mark.

“It supports jobs, saves tax money for our residents,” explains Granum, “and just overall provides additional quality of life.”

She says Rapid City has been bringing in more people than usual to places like Main Street Square, and says that can be attributed to relaxed mandates across South Dakota. Where group events are something that benefited most from that.

“Our meetings and convention business really exploding,” Granum says, “and seeing larger events.” Like, single events that left a bigger impact on the community, “versus maybe having several smaller events.”

She says those bigger events that chose Rapid City were attracted here because of the lack of restrictions and their ability to capitalize on that, because “the attention the state received for being open and not having certain mandates on people. That was huge.”

However, although it made for a good year, it came with its fair share of challenges. Granum says a big one was work force and staffing complications, “whether it be hotels, restaurants, other attractions.” Things that need staff to operate, especially when more people are visiting the area.

“But,” Granum says she’s not worried, because their “industry is pretty resilient.” Enough so to make for a good year, “but, that was one of the big challenges, and will continue to be a challenge going forward.”

She says something else they’d like to take forward with them is promoting year round travel, because “people are more willing to travel any time of year. More people are working remotely.” Which, contributed to a rise in visitors outside of the typical tourism season, and is something they’re trying to capitalize on by “start[ing] to do more aggressive winter marketing. Just escape for the winter, or fall, or spring.”

Seasons that they’re excited about going went well last year, and that they’re looking forward to once again.

“Ready to bring on 2022,” Granum says, “which I think is going to be another big year.”

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