South Dakota Promotes Some ‘Great Getaways’

May 7, 2013 by · Comments Off on South Dakota Promotes Some ‘Great Getaways’ 

Jim Hagen, South Dakota tourism promoter

James Hagen, South Dakota secretary of tourism, was a guest on the Greg Belfrage Show on KELO Radio, Sioux Falls, S.D., on Monday (May 6). A story about that interview appears below or click here to listen to an audiotape.

James Hagen, South Dakota secretary of tourism, is optimistic that tourism will be up in South Dakota this season.

“Right around tax time last year, people answered a survey and 45%of respondents said they were going to use their refunds on a vacation this year,” said Hagen. “Another reason, gas prices are down, 30 to 35 cents a gallon over last year.”

Hagen said they have been flooding the airwaves and newspapers on the target markets with their ‘Great Getaways’ ad to include Des Moines, Kansas City, Minneapolis and for the first time Chicago. Whether it’s on the web, cable TV, news papers or any other means, we are trying to get visitors to South Dakota.

“I encourage South Dakotans to get out and explore their own backyard too,” said Hagen. “We have so much to offer along the I-29 Corridor, with all the museums, galleries and wineries and our state parks are second to none in our country. Next weekend is the free weekend at state parks and I encourage people to get out and take advantage of the camping, fishing and hiking.”

Hagan said people who come to South Dakota say: “From the East to West, they had no idea our state looked like this; the rolling prairies, the glacial lakes, the Missouri River and all of the great attractions.” The second thing they say: “Had we known it was so beautiful here, had we known there were so many great things to see and do, our 4 day vacation would have turned into an 8 day vacation.”

“You add our hospitality and our friendliness, people are blown away by their experiences here,” said Hagan. “People who visit here say they would give their right and left arm to have what we have in South Dakota.”

Hagen encourages people planning their vacation to go to and request a travel guide and to check out the upcoming events. Also people can find answers by going to their local convention and visitor’s bureau either on line or in person.

South Dakota Notes Strong Tourism Season

September 10, 2012 by · Comments Off on South Dakota Notes Strong Tourism Season 

Mount Rushmore

Boosted by a gradually and steadily improving economy, the summer tourism season in South Dakota showed strong increases from 2011, not only in the Black Hills, but across the state, the Sioux City (Iowa) Journal reported.

Ashley Worth, marketing and research analyst for the South Dakota Department of Tourism, said that throughout the state, visitation at private attractions are up anywhere from 8 percent to 25 percent.

“We’ve seen a great flow of visitors this summer,” Worth said. “We saw large increases in the number of visitors to the various state and national parks. Things began leveling off in July to the numbers we saw last year but visitation is still up over year-to-date.”

Year-to-date, more than 2 million visitors have frequented South Dakota’s national parks — Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Badlands and Minuteman Missile.

“Those figures are up 8 percent over the prior year through July.” Worth said. “Mount Rushmore alone has experienced more than 1.3 million visitors year-to-date, an increase of 8 percent through July.”

Year-to-date, more than 4.6 million visitors have visited South Dakota’s state parks, an increase of 24.7 percent from 2011 through July.

“For example, more than 1 million visitors have frequented Custer State Park year to date,” Worth said. “Those figures alone are up 8 percent through July.”

Worth added that information requests for the state are up 10.3 percent through July, with nearly 100,000 vacation guide requests fulfilled.

“National parks numbers are provided by the National Park Service, state parks figures by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks and information requests are tracked by the South Dakota Department of Tourism,” she said.

Hotel demand, one other strong economic indicator of tourism success, also had strong showings across the state through July.

Hotel demand for South Dakota is up 7.5 percent over the prior year, through July, which amounts to approximately 2.7 million room nights.

Hotel Demand for the Black Hills Badlands & Lakes Region is up 9.5 percent, through July.

Black Hills Badlands and Lakes Association President and CEO Nort Johnson said the Black Hills, Badlands & Lakes index is showing an overall 7.76 percent increase in the tourism economy over 2011.

“We blend hotel occupancy, gaming handle, traffic, park attendance and tourism tax collection with weighted values to arrive at our indexed measure,” Johnson said. “Strong marketing campaigns by Black Hills, Badlands and Lakes, State of South Dakota Tourism, local CVBs, chambers and BID districts have had good consumer response. Favorable weather patterns early, decent fuel prices and outstanding wildfire suppression efforts are also making a difference this year. With 30-plus headliner events in the region in September and October we’re optimistic about the potential for the fall shoulder season as well.”

Hotel demand for Deadwood is up 11.8 percent, through July, while the Deadwood gaming handle is up 9.8 percent over prior year, through July.

Deadwood Chamber of Commerce executive director George Milos said the positive swing in the numbers can be felt city-wide.

“The numbers are very encouraging thus far this year,” Milos said. “Our indicators are inquiries, web traffic, taxable sales, room sales and gaming numbers, all of which are up so far in 2012. Barring any huge spikes in gas prices or major events with the economy this could be one of the better summers we’ve had in several years. Although we can’t be 100 percent accurate we believe approximately 1.5 million people pass through Deadwood each year and a good 60 percent of those numbers are June through September.”


South Dakota’s Tourism Decline Reflected at Campgrounds

July 8, 2011 by · Comments Off on South Dakota’s Tourism Decline Reflected at Campgrounds 

Mount Rushmore

Record rainfall, flooding, rising gasoline prices, a slow economy and, to top it off, a season of seemingly never-ending storms are all being blamed for what has been a slow start to the tourism season in western South Dakota, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Renelle Watt, owner of Lazy J RV Park & Campground, said the business is off to its worst season in the 20 years she has owned the site, just south of Rapid City. Watt estimated that revenue is down as much as 40% from past years.

“They’re just not here this year,” Watt said. “You try a few different marketing ideas, but it’s very frustrating. It rained all May and June. We had a good Fourth of July weekend, but it was still down from last year.”

Michele Lintz, president of the Rapid City Convention & Visitors Bureau, said she has heard anecdotally that tourism has been down, but tax collection data for June is not available. She said month-over-month data may be deceiving, with higher than normal visits last year at this time.

Newly released visitation statistics for Mount Rushmore, which generally indicate tourism strength for the entire region, provide some insight into the industry.

In May, the start of the season, 199,523 people visited the memorial, a 15% decrease year-over-year, according to a National Park Service database. June saw 506,968 visitors, down from 587,844 last year, or 13.8%.

It also marks the first time since 2008 that it took until July for the memorial to break through the 1-million-visitor mark. In 2010, 3.1 million people visited the sculpture.

Ace Crawford, spokeswoman for the monument, said that after a slow start, officials are optimistic that the near-record 21,000 visitors July 3 is a sign of improving times.

Lazy J owner reports 40% decline this season.

“It’s hard to pinpoint one factor for it; certainly, the weather this year has been a factor. It’s not just flooding in South Dakota, it’s weather across the country,” Crawford said. “There’s a lot of year left; nice weather late in the season can help make up those numbers. In 2010, we were down some months, but in the end, we were up.”

Another indicator of travel comes from Rapid City Regional Airport. May statistics show overall travelers were down 13.7% due to “to reductions in capacity by the airlines and the departure of Frontier,” according to a news release. Airport director Cameron Humphres was unavailable for comment Thursday. Year-to-date, the airport is down about 10 percent.

Ray Mapel, a camper at Lazy J, also said the area seemed less congested than in some years. He said his trip from Gillette, Wyo., through Hulett, Wyo., near the Devils Tower area was also noticeably less busy.

“The weather’s got a lot to do with it,” Mapel said. “I was going to bring my motorcycle, like I usually do, but the weather looked pretty nasty. The real question will be if Sturgis brings the area back. I’ve heard both sides: Some think it’s going to be big, some say it’ll be down.”

South Dakota on Target with Tourism Promotion

December 4, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Despite a deep national recession, South Dakota experienced tourism growth this year with Yankton playing a key role, state officials told a local audience Wednesday (Dec. 2).

The 2010 Initiative, launched by Gov. Mike Rounds in 2003, set a goal of doubling visitor spending from $600 million to $1.2 billion by 2010, according to The Press & Dakotan, Yankton.

Fueled by the initiative, South Dakota has outpaced national figures for visitor spending this decade, said Richard Benda, cabinet secretary for the Department of Tourism and State Development.

“As far as tourism, we have grown from $600 million (in 2003) to $967 million last year,” Benda said. “We have had a 6 1/2% annual increase in visitor spending since 2003, and the average is 3% annually.”

Yankton has played a key role in South Dakota’s tourism growth, with this year producing a banner season, said Melissa Bump, director of the state office of tourism.

“Campground attendance and state and national park visitation is off the charts,” she said. “Across the board, state campground attendance is up more than 5%. And right here in Yankton, the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area set a record in state park attendance.”

Lewis and Clark smashed marks for both one month and for a season, said Lisa Scheve, executive director of the Yankton Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

“The Lewis and Clark Recreation Area hosted more than 10,000 camping units for a one-month period of time,” she said. “This has never been done before.”

The 10,109 filled camping units out of a possible 12,059 created an 84% occupancy rate, the highest ever recorded for one month, she added.

The Yankton campgrounds also set a single-season record, Scheve said.

“From January through October this year, Lewis and Clark hosted 35,534 camping units, the highest recorded number of camping units for this 10-month period of time and once again had a record season,” she said. “This was also a 5% increase over last year’s number of camping units for this same period of time.”

Much of Yankton’s success comes from its ability to redefine tourism, Scheve said.

“People think tourism is just the Hawaiian shirt, the shorts and the fanny pack,” she said.

Yankton has received a tremendous boost from the relocation of the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) headquarters to the community, Scheve said.

The relocation grew out of Yankton’s role as host of a national archery tournament about five years ago, Scheve said.

“The tournament had a huge economic impact. It made a bull’s-eye in our (tourism) market,” she said. “We wondered how we could continue to grow this.”

NFAA president Bruce Cull of Yankton said the timing was right for the permanent relocation of the headquarters.

“This (move) happened because of a chain of events. I was president of the NFAA, and we were interested in a new home,” he said. “They liked the Midwest hospitality (in Yankton). People went above and beyond for us. It was a natural (for us to come here).”

Yankton officials aggressively pursued the archery relocation, Scheve said. They formed a public-private partnership including the city, county and Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), she said.

“We put together incentives for an archery center in Yankton,” she said. “With the NFAA, it was like the field of dreams. If you build it, they will come.”

The effort proved successful, with Yankton becoming the new headquarters of the NFAA and the Easton Sports Development Foundation Center for Excellence in Archery.

The new 22,000-square-foot facility includes permanent ranges for Olympic archery games, field archery and 3-D simulated hunting. A 25-meter indoor range will be open to the public all year. The NFAA, in partnership with other archery organizations, holds various tournaments in Yankton each year.

Yankton has hosted the First Dakota Archery Classic, Scheve said. The tournament is part of the NFAA world tour and has brought upwards of 800 archery members to the area. Yankton also hosts USA archery competition for the Olympics, she said.

“We have people from 49 states and 12 different countries,” she said. “Yankton has gone global.”

The relocation of the archery headquarters has produced more local jobs, Scheve said. The new facility also offers opportunities for classroom work and training seminars, she said.

Cull looks for the sport and Yankton’s prominence to increase even more in the years ahead.

“Archery is a very big sport and growing,” he said. “Archery is a sport that anybody can do. People can do it from ages 5 to 95.”

Yankton provides an ideal location, particularly during the current recession, Cull said.

“With the economy, more people are driving, and South Dakota is the geographic center of the United States,” he said.

Even those who fly into the region find a pleasant surprise, Cull said. Yankton offers an airport for private craft and charter flights, and commercial airports are a quick drive away in a rural setting, he said.

“When I tell them we have airports in Sioux Falls and Sioux City, I don’t tell them it’s 70 or 80 miles,” he said. “I tell them it’s an hour away. In a big city, it might take that long to get across town.”

Yankton has also found a niche promoting regional festivals, Bump said.

“The events you put on are fabulous,” she said. “You have Ribfest and Riverboat Days that are very successful. People are truly drawn to your events.”

Yankton’s tourism success shows people are not giving up their outings despite the uncertain economy, Bump said.

“People are still vacationing, and they’re doing it here in South Dakota,” she said. “It also tells us, during this difficult state budget time, tourism is helping to keep our economy stable.”

Last year, tourists spent more than $967 million in South Dakota, Bump said. If tourism didn’t exist, each household would have to pay about $960 more in taxes to maintain the current level of state and local tax receipts, she said.

Each visitor generates $76 in wages paid to workers directly employed in tourism, Bump said. Each visitor also contributes about $41 in tax receipts, $20 of which goes to state and local authorities.

In addition, a new job is created in South Dakota for every 342 visitors, Bump said.

Tourism officials are using word of mouth through cyberspace, Bump said.

“We are on the social media bandwagon — promoting our programs on Facebook and Twitter,” she said. “We launched this effort in April and already have more than 2,200 fans on Facebook and another 1,100 on Twitter.”

South Dakotans need to continue promoting their great state, Benda said.

“We are way too modest,” he said. “We really need an environment where we talk about our successes and how good we are.”