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The Power of Travel

In South Dakota, we have so much to be proud of. Our beautiful landscapes, thriving business climate, and welcoming residents all combine to make this state truly the land of “Great Faces, Great Places.” But this week, we have a very special reason to celebrate something that combines all the state’s greatest qualities: our travel and tourism industry.


From May 2 through 8, join me in celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW). This year’s NTTW theme – the “Power of Travel” – seems more important than ever in 2021. Last year, our friends and neighbors in the tourism industry found innovative ways to serve their customers.


By remaining open and free, South Dakota survived – and some even thrived – during a challenging year. It was tough, but determination, hard work, and perseverance – qualities that come naturally to South Dakotans – got us through the storm. And now, South Dakota is welcoming visitors that are more excited than ever to travel.


There are plenty of reasons to celebrate tourism, our state’s second-largest industry. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, South Dakota was one of the best-performing states in the country. We welcomed 12.6 million visitors to the Mount Rushmore State in 2020.


Those guests spent a total of $3.4 billion, generating $276 million in tax revenue. Together, these visitors support almost 50,000 South Dakota jobs in our tourism industry. In fact, because of visitor spending in our state, South Dakota taxpayers save $780 per household. On average, national visitor spending declined by 45%, but South Dakota saw only an 18% decline in spending.


Outdoor recreation is always something to enjoy in South Dakota, but it was especially popular at a time when fresh air and wide-open spaces were a priority nationwide. State park visitation was up 31% last year, and we issued record numbers of trail permits and youth hunting licenses. For the first time ever, we welcomed more than 2 million visitors to Custer State Park.


This is why we are celebrating the “Power of Travel” in South Dakota during this year’s NTTW – and there are so many ways to get involved. Write a letter or social post thanking travel workers – including your favorite SoDak businesses – for everything they do to attract and entertain visitors. Tag your messages with #NTTW21, #HifromSD and #PowerOfTravel to show your appreciation for hard-working tourism folks.


When the going got tough, tourism stepped up. And the folks in the tourism industry deserve our gratitude. Whether you’re from out of state or are a lifelong resident, I hope you’ll find ways to enjoy South Dakota’s many incredible opportunities, whether it’s catching a sunrise at Badlands National Park or cruising our scenic roads and byways, or just supporting your local diner.


2020 proved that a united state can weather any storm. That’s the “Power of Travel.” 2020 was an incredible year for South Dakota’s tourism industry, and I’m so excited for what 2021 has in store.