South Dakota holds its own

Published May 1, 2009  | May 2009 issue

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It was business as usual for tourist operators in the state in 2008—for the all-important summer season, at least. Canadians, farm families and energy-patch workers came to the Mount Rushmore State with money in their pockets. Compared with the previous year, summer demand for accommodation increased in every month except June. Adjusted for inflation, summertime tax assessments on a gamut of tourist-oriented goods and services declined only slightly.

However, in the fall bad economic news put an extra chill in the air. Lodging demand fell below 2007 levels for the rest of the year (Rapid City was an exception), and in September tourism sales were down 3 percent.

Not all regions of the state were dealt the same hand. The tourist season in the popular Black Hills and Badlands followed a course similar to that of the state as a whole. But the southeastern part of the state fared worse; tourist tax assessments for the summer dropped about 9 percent from 2007 (see chart). Attendance at attractions such as the Corn Palace in Mitchell also fell, and in the fall fewer hunters came to the area to shoot pheasants. The owner of one guide service said that his sales were down over 20 percent for the season.

Chart: South Dakota Tourism Tax Due