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South Dakota Campgrounds’ Plight Improving

July 12, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

The tourism industry had a $2.5-billion economic impact in South Dakota last year alone. And with the improving economy, the industry appears to be getting even stronger in South Dakota. But that means there are some changes happening. The buzz word of “staycation” that encouraged families to take vacations near home is being retired, while true vacations return to family plans, KELO-TV, Sioux Falls, S.D., reported.

Travelers who spend time in South Dakota campgrounds aren’t just getting a break from work, their vacations are pumping a significant amount of money into the local economy. But who is camping is changing. Tourism is trending back up across the nation, and travelers are logging more miles now that the economy has improved.

“Staycation, I think, is a word that’s been put on the shelf. It was a great word while it lasted. It was a good idea, a good concept, but I think people have moved on to try and get back to taking that real vacation,” Teri Ellis Schmidt with the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau said.

Maynard Ullery of Bella Vista, Ark., is in that category. This year he’s picked up his traveling after cutting way back.

“We didn’t go out last year at all, other than just locally. The year before we didn’t do a while lot either. This year we’ve decided to travel. We weren’t going to originally because the price of gas was high,” Ullery said.

Ullery is making his way from Arkansas to Montana. During this first long trip in several years, he’s making plenty of stops on the way to his destination.

“We’re going to take our time and stop out in the Badlands and Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills and just kind of wind our way across the Great Falls,” Ullery said.

Teri Ellis Schmidt of the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau says Ullery isn’t alone with plans like that. However, plans aren’t what they were before the recession hit.

“Maybe its not as grand as it was going to be five years ago. But they’re still saying, ‘you know what, I’ve saved, I’m tired of skimping, I need a break, I’m going to take a real vacation’ and they’re going,” Ellis Schmidt said.

But that’s not to say that everyone is traveling a great distance.

“There’s not as many on the road, seems like as there was seven or eight years ago. It’s down some but up from the last couple of years,” Ullery said.

That’s improvement, and a big step in the right direction for the tourism industry and businesses that rely on it. That doesn’t mean the road ahead won’t have some bumps, but for now, there’s promise of a strong industry ahead.

“Our numbers are looking pretty good still. We’ve had some good event activity and I think that’s helped draw. We’ve done a lot of advertising letting people know that the Sioux Falls area is not under water, that you can get here and everything is fine. So we’re looking forward to a good summer,” Ellis Schmidt said.

As for travelers, some such as Ullery are already looking beyond this summer as they make more plans to travel.

“I think we’re probably going to do some next year. However we did think we may take a cruise next year and kind of mix it up a little bit,” Ullery said.

And with plans like that, the outlook is good for the tourism industry for years to come.

Ellis Schmidt notes that right now, even more so than the economy, the flooding situation along the Missouri River is the toughest hurdle to overcome in drawing travelers to the area. However, campgrounds like Yogi Bear east of Sioux Falls saw additional business over the Fourth of July weekend because the Minnesota government shutdown closed state parks, sending campers across the border.

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