South Dakota Tourism has solid year despite pandemic

PIERRE, S.D. (DRG News) – Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 12.6 million visitors came to South Dakota in 2020, a decrease of only 13% from 2019.

Gov. Kristi Noem says South Dakota ranked third-best in the country in domestic bookings.

Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen says they continue to use targeted messaging to reach people who want to travel.

Hagen acknowledges there are segments of the tourism industry in the state that are still struggling.

Hagen says without tourism, each South Dakota household would have to pay an additional $780 in taxes each year.

The annual study by Tourism Economics showed visitors to South Dakota spent $3.4 billion, a decline of only 18% from 2019. Nationally, on average, visitor spending was down 45% across the country. Spending generated by visitors contributed $2.6 billion in GDP, accounting for 4.7% of the state’s economy.

2020 Economic Impact Figures:

  • 6 million – the number of visitors that came to South Dakota. Despite the pandemic, South Dakota saw a decline of only 13% from the previous year.
  • $3.4 billion – the amount of visitor spending, a decrease of 18%
  • $2.6 billion – the amount of GDP contributed to the state’s economy, representing 4.7% of the South Dakota economy
  • $276 million – the state and local tax dollars generated by travel and tourism activity. Tourism accounts for 11% of state sales tax collections.
  • $157 million – amount of tax revenue collected by local governments from travel and tourism activity
  • $119 million – amount of tax revenue collected by the State of South Dakota from travel and tourism activity
  • $780 – the amount of tax dollars each South Dakota household saves because of the tourism industry
  • 49,500 – number of jobs supported by the tourism industry, representing one out of 12 jobs in South Dakota. Tourism generated $1.6 billion in income for those employed in those jobs.


Additional 2020 travel indicators:

  • 3% – average hotel occupancy for the year, surpassing the national average of 44.7%
  • 9 million – the number of hotel room nights booked in 2020
  • 883,000 – number of room nights booked on AirBNB or Homeaway in 2020, a 22.3% increase
  • 8 million – number of visitors to South Dakota’s state parks, representing a 31% increase.
  • 2 million – visitors to Custer State Park, reaching the 2 million mark for the first time in history
  • 408,000 – airport arrivals at Sioux Falls and Rapid City Regional Airports, a 48% decrease


To view the full 2020 Tourism Economics report, visit

**All stats reflect calendar year 2020 numbers over 2019 unless otherwise noted.