Hills tourism is booming

Just by looking around at all the traffic in the area, it is safe to say tourism is now booming in the Black Hills. Things may have started out slowly this year because of the COVID-19 virus, but now everyone in business is as busy, and busier, than they can possibly be.
Motels and restaurants are doing all they can to keep up with the influx of visitors. Nobody seems to have enough help and this is evident with the number of motels and restaurants that have not been able to open, or have limited hours, because of the lack of employees. Foreign workers are normally here in abundance to augment staffs, but this year they were unable to come here because of travel restrictions.
Nonetheless, motels, campgrounds and restaurants that are open are operating at capacity. Skeleton motel housekeeping staffs are working seven days a week to see that rooms are cleaned properly for the next influx of guests. Restaurants with less than half the number of employees are doing the best they can to feed our hungry visitors. These front-line staff members are the very heart of our tourism industry and deserve our heartfelt thanks.
We don’t believe it is any coincidence that visitor activity picked up with a bang after the July 3 Presidential visit and fireworks at Mount Rushmore. Jim Hagen, S.D. Secretary of Tourism, was elated at the results of the event his department tracked after July 3. Using very conservative estimates, he figures the fireworks celebration carried an advertising value of more than $22 million.
Using the same conservative estimates, the event itself generated $2 million in direct visitor spending and resulted in $160,000 in tax revenues to state and local governments, according to the Department of Tourism. Millions around the world tuned in to watch the July 3 event. FOX News alone reached 5.5 million people.
Web traffic to South Dakota pages shot up during the July 3 celebration. Google searches for “Mount Rushmore” hit an all-time high at a rate of 1,250 percent higher than the previous record of the July 4th holiday in 2005. The department’s web traffic increased 872 percent compared to July3-4 last year, which was the equivalent of $95,000 of paid promotion.
This unpaid advertising windfall has had a direct, positive impact on what we are seeing now in the Black Hills. License plates from states that have been mostly shut down because of the virus are evident wherever you look. Because of the policies developed by Gov. Kristi Noem at the onset of the virus, the word is out that South Dakota is more-or-less an open state with certain restrictions in place at health facilities and some businesses.
Following the July 3 ceremonies at Mount Rushmore featuring keynote speeches by our governor and President Trump, we were more than proud to call ourselves South Dakotans...and patriotic Americans!

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