Published November 1, 2001 | November 2001 issue
The slow economy, high gas prices and bad weather led to a drop in summer tourism in South Dakota, and state and private groups have pumped $400,000 into a marketing campaign to boost numbers for the autumn. State officials estimate that visitors typically spend about $600 million a year, and the overall economic effect exceeds $1.4 billion.
The visitor decline was seen in a 3 percent drop in July camp and motel occupancy, a 12 percent fall in state information center traffic and substantial declines in visitor rates at Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, the Corn Palace and the Great Plains Zoo. Even the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally saw a 12.6 percent drop.
If the trend continues into the fall, only the state's pheasant population will rejoice. The pheasant hunting season typically attracts 150,000 hunters, nearly half from out of state, and generates about $85 million in spending, but tourism and hunting officials fear the numbers will drop if the slow economy convinces hunters to cancel their trips.