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State tourism department reports another strong year

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South Dakota Department of Tourism
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Wanda Goodman, deputy secretary of the Department of Tourism, speaks at the 2023 Governor's Conference on Tourism

The increase in tourist spending in South Dakota outpaced the increase of the inflation rate seen over the same time period, according to a new state report.

Wanda Goodman is the deputy secretary of the Department of Tourism. She said visitor spending is a cornerstone in the state economy.

“Jobs in South Dakota that are supported by tourism – that number was up over last year at almost 57,000," Goodman said. "The tax revenue that’s generated through tourism in South Dakota is at $361 million in 2022. So, just a lot of great numbers to share this year. A lot of successes and that’s setting us up well for moving forward in 2023.”

Goodman said those visitors are coming from all directions, with the number one visitor market being Minneapolis-St. Paul. Other top origin markets include Denver, Fargo, Omaha, and Des Moines with growth seen in Texas.

But are those visitors reaching every corner of the state? Mike Rodman, executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association reported a strong year.

“When a lot of the country was closed down for gaming, Deadwood kind of got discovered as a gaming destination," Rodman said. "Those folks have continued to come back and visit Deadwood. So, we’ve seen our visitors coming from a much bigger area than probably historically had happened.”

In the heart of pheasant country, Carissa Giblin with the Redfield Chamber of Commerce said hunters turned out this year.

“The beginning of pheasant season went off so well," Giblin said. "In Redfield, particularly, I think the businesses, especially the restaurants in general, were very much pleased compared to years past. It was still a real good hunting season overall.”

Both Rodman and Giblin reported worse-than-expected numbers for the month of December on account of the winter storms in the state.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.