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Black Hills tourism numbers slightly down after unusual summer season

Published: Sep. 13, 2020 at 12:32 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Tourism is essential to the state’s economy, and with the summer tourism season coming to an end, some may wonder how it went in Rapid City.

“At the end of August, we are only five points away, five percentage points away from where we were a year ago. We were ready to think maybe 30% or 25%. The state is at like 45% down. But Rapid City and the Black Hills are really doing well,” says the president and CEO of Visit Rapid City, Julie Schmitz Jensen.

For Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, the owner says summer tourism is the biggest season that gets them through the year other than Christmas.

“Really, it hasn’t been all that bad. We’re probably down 15% of normal, and that was mainly because the bus tours were canceled for the entire summer. Which is a lot of our walk around town business,” says the owner of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Kendra Larson.

At Mary’s Mountain Cookies, the co-owner says they did well this summer, and it’s comparable to last year with the tourism dollars and local business.

“We look at our business for the whole year. Of course, summertime tourism helps our business. It helps, I believe, a lot of local businesses. This year was a little bit of how are we’re going to staff it? How are we going to buy our goods as far as do we buy similar to last year,” says the co-owner of Mary’s Mountain Cookies, Julie Mahaffey.

Some businesses benefit from the fall tourism season, but the pandemic still ongoing.

“We know that it’s going to be quite a bit lower than normal, so we’re just kind of going to bite the bullet and stick it out,” says Larson.

“We’re just kind of keeping our finger on the pulse of what the shoulder season is going to do. Again we don’t know. People don’t know, but I do believe if our weather continues to be beautiful, people are going to come,” says Jensen.

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