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South Dakota tourism numbers reached record highs in 2021

In 2021, Minnehaha, Pennington, Lawrence, Brown, and Custer counties accounted for 68% of all...
In 2021, Minnehaha, Pennington, Lawrence, Brown, and Custer counties accounted for 68% of all visitor spending.
Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 4:59 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The tourism industry is often regarded as one of South Dakota’s largest economic drivers.

2021 proved that notion true once again. Last year, visitor spending in the state reached a record high of $4.4 billion.

One local business that feels the impact of these numbers is Hotel on Phillips in downtown Sioux Falls.

“This is really becoming a destination market for people to come to the heart of the city,” Kelly Inns Limited President & CEO Brenda Schmidt, said. Kelly Inns Limited is the ownership group that oversees Hotel on Phillips.

After a challenging 2020, guest volume at the hotel has rebounded substantially.

“2021 was wonderful, the first quarter of this year has been very good, so we expect to have a good summer,” Schmidt said.

Experience Sioux Falls Director Teri Schmidt says the city saw 1.3 million visitors spend more than $440 million in 2021.

“The numbers for the Sioux Falls area have grown so much over the years, and we know we’re getting people from all over the world here now, which is really what we’ve worked for,” Teri said.

It’s something the whole community has felt.

“It’s jobs for people in Sioux Falls, it’s creating tax dollars in Sioux Falls, so it really does roll through the community, it’s just the truest of economic development,” Teri said.

The latest state numbers come from a detailed analysis done by Tourism Economics. In 2021, Minnehaha, Pennington, Lawrence, Brown, and Custer counties accounted for 68% of all visitor spending.

“Some of those well-known counties, with huge tourism attractions, float to the top, and that’s to be expected, but the wonderful thing is we’re actually seeing other counties, like Brown County, where Aberdeen is, and small counties, really do a lot better and attract a lot more visitors, and that’s our goal,” South Dakota Secretary of the Department of Tourism Jim Hagen said.

Hagan adds that many of those other counties actually surpassed pre-pandemic levels. A trend that has him excited for the future.

“We’re really eager for the summer to get underway, to see what those peak season numbers will be like next fall, and I think the industry itself is geared up and ready to go,” Hagan said.

Hagan went on to speak about the importance of the tourism industry to those who live in South Dakota. He says tourism dollars support more than 54,000 jobs and provide $1.8 billion in household income to South Dakota families.

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