Gov. Says SD Tourism Industry Did OK In Recession

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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – Gov. Mike Rounds says tourist spending likely will not reach the goal he had set for his final year in office, but South Dakota’s tourism industry has outperformed its competition in other states.

In 2003, his first year in office, Rounds hoped to double visitor spending from $600 million to $1.2 billion in 2010. The governor said Friday it will be difficult to reach that level this year, but he believes visitor spending could exceed $1 billion this year.

Efforts to boost the tourism industry were hampered by two wars, the recession and record-high gasoline prices a few years ago, Rounds said.

The governor announced that the number of visitors to South Dakota grew by 1.9 percent in 2009, when tourist numbers fell by 7.1 percent nationally.

Tourists spent about $963 million in South Dakota last year, a drop of 0.4 percent from 2008, Rounds said. However, tourist spending nationally fell by 14 percent, he said.

“We held our own this year,” Rounds said.

Visitors to South Dakota paid at least $51 million in sales and fuel taxes last year, the governor said. About 34,000 people work in tourism-related businesses statewide, he said.

Rounds credited advertising with helping South Dakota’s tourism industry grow. Tourism promotions are encouraging people to use the state’s Internet site to plan their entire vacations by booking motels and arranging to visit attractions, he said.

Bill Honerkamp of the Black Hills, Badlands and Lakes Association said South Dakota tourism fared unusually well compared with other states. North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana seemed to do well last year, possibly because much of the central U.S. wasn’t hit as hard as other places by the recession, he said.

Visitor spending was up 1.3 percent last year in the Black Hills, which features Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Honerkamp said.

“We marketed like crazy,” Honerkamp said. “We really put the pedal down and we hit it hard.”

Attractions, parks and campgrounds did particularly well in 2009, but business was tough in gift shops and other retail stores, Honerkamp said. Vacationers appeared to spend money on food, gasoline, lodging and other necessities, but they cut back on T-shirts and other souvenirs, he said.


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