Tourists explore undiscovered territory

North Dakota State Roundup

Published September 1, 2004  | September 2004 issue

The state's tourism industry is hoping its investment in the Lewis and Clark bicentennial will pay off, and preliminary signs indicate it might.

Celebrations began this May to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the expedition, which spent the winter of 1804 outside what is now Bismarck. Thousands of tourists were to travel all or part of the expedition's original trail along the Missouri River through the Rockies to the Pacific Northwest this past summer.

In expectation, state tourism officials have spent the last several years attempting to dispel North Dakota's image as the least-visited state in the country. Aside from spending $775,000 on a promotional campaign, the state also built a new Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and a replica of their camp, Fort Mandan, outside Bismarck.

This was paid for in part by a lodging tax of 1 percent, passed last year by a margin of one vote and more than doubling the state tourism budget. While controversial, the measures seem to be working. Last year's 44,000 visitors helped generate $3 billion in revenues, making tourism the state's second biggest business. Over the past five years, tourism revenues have jumped 14 percent, owing in part to the post-9/11 period, in which local tourism has become more popular.

Joe Mahon