Tourism Officials Prepare For Upcoming Season
Last year, about 14 million tourists visited South Dakota.
Officials say that brought in roughly $4 billion dollars in revenue.
Tourism is South Dakota’s second leading industry after agriculture, and the industry is celebrating this week just before the season kicks off.
South Dakota joins the nation in celebrating the 36th annual National Travel and Tourism week.
This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Custer State Park.
Jim Hagen is the Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism. He says visitor numbers have grown over the last nine years.
Hagen says tourism employs about 55 thousand people.
“When you take a step back and you say, ‘Okay, this is a job creating, revenue generating, tax reducing industry,’ there aren’t a lot of industries that you can point to and say, ‘Hey, look at these check marks they create.’”
Hagen says more tourists are seeking authentic experiences. He says that when people visit they want to live, eat and explore like locals.
Julie Jensen is the president and CEO of Visit Rapid City, a non-profit destination marketing organization for Rapid City and the Black Hills.
Jensen says local people need to be ready for the incoming visitors. She note’s that the state and local budgets for marketing are comparatively small and sees residents as the state’s greatest marketing tool.
“They are our ambassadors. They are the ones that are getting people to come – Helping us get people to come. But when they’re treated well and they tell their neighbors, they tell their relatives and that word of mouth is the strongest marketing tool that we have.”
Jensen also wants to focus on the cultural experience of travel. She states that travel is good for families and relationships.