Early tourism numbers down; weather playing a role - KOTA Territory News

Early tourism numbers down; weather playing a role

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While tourism numbers for December, January, and February are never as high as the summer, 2014's winter has been seemingly never ending. Along with the temperature, early tourism numbers for 2014 dropped 5.11%.

Friday was a quiet winter-day in Hill City, leaving the streets and stores were empty. "If you're lucky, five maybe?" said Judy Walker, Stage Stop owner.

Five. That's the number of customers Walker says she sees on a good winter-day. What about this year? "Sometimes there was two and other times you just draw a line through income for the day," said Walker.

Mother nature beats the presidents when it comes to visitation, says Maureen McGee-Ballinger, Mount Rushmore interpretation and education. "In January we'll get maybe 20,000 people. February could be 20 to 30,000," said McGee-Ballinger. "That number can go way down or way up depending upon the weather." 

This year, 30,000 people came to see the monument in January. That number dropped to 21,000 in February. "More than the cold, I think people are looking at the conditions of the roads," said McGee-Ballinger.

And the condition of their wallets. Michele Slott, spokeswoman for Prairie Berry, says traffic at the winery has been pretty consistent with other years. "What we are noticing is that people aren't spending as much, but coming in about the same numbers," said Slott.

While 2013's tourism numbers were up, the gambling numbers were not. The latest figures show the Deadwood Gaming Handle finished 2013 down 3.67%.

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