North Dakota Tourism Rebounds from Flooding
Click here to watch a video courtesy of KFYR-TV, Bismarck, N.D., about the following story.
This summer`s flooding disrupted lives, businesses and vacations. Not surprisingly, the state`s tourism division says fewer people traveled around the state during the flood, but the division says these past three months tourism has rebounded.
"You wouldn`t go to Disney World without calling and making sure you had a hotel room. We`re just trying to get people to think of North Dakota that way," said Sara Otte Coleman, director of the state`s tourism division.
Thanks to the oil boom, finding a hotel room anywhere near Minot, Williston or Dickinson is becoming nearly impossible if you don`t have a reservation. Coleman says North Dakota is leading the country in hotel occupancies, increasing by 9% from this time last year.
"Tourism is not just leisure travel, but it's broader," Coleman said. "It includes business travel. It includes visiting friends and relatives and all of that so it's still tourism even though it's not our focus which is leisure travelers."
Tourism is one of North Dakota's biggest money-makers, but the state wasn't immune to setbacks over the past year. State parks like Fort Abraham Lincoln near Mandan saw fewer people this summer after having to close its flooded campgrounds. Some parts of the campgrounds saw as much as 7 1/2 feet of water.
"Our camping numbers were pretty miserable. Our day use was down quite a bit and our tours were down as well by a third, but the Haunted Fort made up for that," said Dan Schelske, manager of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.
Schelske says the park has seen about 80,000 fewer people than it did at this time last year. Still, park employees have been plenty busy.
Schelske said, "Instead of taking care of the public and offering them services, they were kind of, that was pushed aside for more of maintenance and preventative maintenance."
The park is still battling groundwater, but Schelske feels hopeful the campgrounds will be open next summer.
With increased national media coverage of North Dakota's economy, the tourism division says people around the country are taking notice of the Peace Garden State.
Coleman said, "The strong economy, again, has people interested: what are they doing right in North Dakota? We gotta go and check it out."
The state's tourism division has been fielding several calls from job hunters around the country wondering what kinds of jobs are available in the western half of the state.