Reptile Gardens is looking to the bright side of this tourism season

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The global pandemic hit every aspect of our lives. But for South Dakota's tourism industry, the impact could be felt all season long.
Reptile Gardens reopened their doors last Monday, June 15th, and although things will look a little different this summer they say they've got a lot in store for visitors.

Reptile Garden's is just happy to see people back. But for the first week, visitor numbers were down 20 percent.

"I would say it went as well as we could have ever expected. Our crowds have been decent, I mean it's not as busy as a typical summer but people are having a great time, they're enjoying it," said John Brocklesby, Reptile Garden's public relations. "We are real fortunate so much of our attraction is outside."

Reptile Garden's staff spent the last few months coming up with ways to give visitors a memorable experience while maintaining social distancing guidlines. So gator fishing and up close encounters with birds were created.

"They've been absolutely loving it so far, everyone that I've been talking to just really loves the much more relaxed atmosphere being able to actually take the time, looking at the birds, getting to talk to the keepers and the handlers and just learn a little bit more about them, said Nicole Meyer, assistant bird keeper.

Brocklesby thinks this summer attraction is doing a bit better than others in the area but believes the entire Black Hills will see a tourism spike later this summer.

"A lot of people have been planning fall trips and things like that, you know they kind of just want to wait and see and so on. I think we could see a little bit of a spike as the summer season goes on," said Brocklesby.

Reptile Garden's, like other local businesses, plans to stay fluid and adjust to the arrival of more and more tourists.