Tourism is one of the pillars of the South Dakota economy. Mount Rushmore, The Black Hills, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, Wall Drug. All of these attractions are not only famous among South Dakotans, they are prominent places to visit among many Americans.

According to the South Dakota Tourism Industry's website, over 14 million people visited the state in 2018, which made up 15 percent of South Dakota's state and local tax revenue. In South Dakota alone, the GDP reached 2.6 billion, roughly 5 percent of South Dakota's total economy. All of that revenue has been a big boost for jobs in the state as well. The most recent study showed that the state created over 54,000 tourism jobs in 2018. With the closures and restrictions put in place at state parks, monuments, and elsewhere, for months at a time, due to COVID- 19, experts are predicting much lower numbers this year.

Just how much of a hit will the tourism industry take? The South Dakota Department of Tourism Secretary, Jim Hagen estimates that total revenue is down close to 70 percent from where we were last year around this time.

It's not just parks and monuments that have lost revenue since the pandemic began in March. Hotels have been almost empty, many campsites as well. Plenty of festivals held throughout the state in the months of April, May, and June also postponed, or canceled altogether. All of this contributes to the low tourism revenue, but the good news is, things are picking up.

As America (and South Dakota) begin to open things back up, people are heading to tourist destinations, albeit in lower numbers than any summer on record. Most experts admit progress will be slow, as the economy begins to restart. Still, after what the tourism industry and America itself has been through, any uptick in the numbers and public morale is a good thing.

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