CUSTER, S.D. (KOTA TV) - For the 10th straight year, South Dakota was no stranger to vacationing tourists. The state welcomed more than 14 million visitors in 2019, despite the adverse weather conditions.
Dolsee Davenport is the Executive Director for the Custer Chamber of Commerce.
"You know, getting snow until the end of May, people see that and just push off their trips. We had flooding in August, there were so many things just stacked against us. It definitely impacted us last year," said Davenport.
With popular tourist spots all around the Black Hills, the number of jobs needed to fill can sometimes outweigh the population. In 2019, nearly 55,000 jobs in South Dakota were supported by the tourism industry.
"You know in the summertime there are roughly 10,000 to 15,000 people here on a given day. That is a big increase and we definitely need to bring in a lot of people to fill those jobs," said Davenport.
With the highly anticipated 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the return of Fourth of July fireworks at Mount Rushmore vocalized by President Trump, Custer is expecting 2020 to be another prosperous year for tourism.
"I said you mean you can't have fireworks because of the environment? 'Yeah, environmental reasons.' I said, 'What can burn? It's stone.' Nobody knew why," said Trump.
"As long as it's safe and there are no fires, as long as it's good for the environment, I think we're all for it. It's exciting to see that come back again," said Davenport.
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Some of last year’s miserable weather didn’t put a damper on South Dakota’s tourism industry.
South Dakota, according to a release from the state, had a record number of visitors and visitor spending in 2019. That is the 10th straight year of growth.
According to the annual study done by Tourism Economics, South Dakota welcomed 14.5 million visitors, an increase of 3.1%. This is the highest growth percentage the state has experienced since 2014.
Visitors to South Dakota spent $4.1 billion, an increase of 2.8% over the previous year. This spending flowed through the economy and contributed $2.75 billion in GDP, accounting for 5.2% of the state’s economy.
“Even with massive flooding and the adverse weather we faced in our state and the region, 2019 was a better year than we thought it was going to be,” said James Hagen, secretary of the Department of Tourism.
“The spring snowstorms, flooding, and a struggling ag economy did result in fewer visitors to our national and state parks, lower hotel occupancy in the Black Hills, and less revenue in certain communities. However, that was balanced by the growth of other areas and businesses across the state,” Hagen explained.
In 2019, tourism generated $308 million in state and local tax revenue. Without tourism in South Dakota, each household would pay an additional $890 more in taxes each year.
2019 Economic Impact Figures:
• 14.5 million – The number of visitors that came to South Dakota, an increase of 3.1%
• $4.1 billion – The amount of visitor spending, an increase of 2.8%
• $110 million – The amount of visitor spending from international visitors
• $2.75 billion – The amount of GDP contributed to the state’s economy, representing 5.2% of the South Dakota economy
• $308 million – The state and local tax dollars generated by travel and tourism activity, an increase of $10 million
• $172 million – amount of tax revenue collected by local governments from travel and tourism activity
• $890 – the amount of tax dollars each South Dakota household saves because of the tourism industry
• 55,157 – number of jobs supported by the tourism industry, 8.8% of all South Dakota jobs
Additional 2019 travel indicators:
• 59% – average hotel occupancy for the year
• 10.7 million – number of visitors to South Dakota’s state and national parks
• 4.9 million – number of hotel room nights booked in 2019
• 561,000 – number of room nights booked on AirBNB or Homeaway in 2019
• 22,500 – estimated number of motor coaches that visited South Dakota in 2018 (based on 2019 report)
• 857,000 – airport arrivals at Sioux Falls and Rapid City Regional Airports