RAPID CITY, S.D. — Summer tourism in the Black Hills was off to a rough start due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But during July, August and early September, Rapid City saw a lot of visitors to help out the local economy.
Tourism in the Black Hills is usually very vibrant during the summer months and with business closures all over the nation, South Dakota and Rapid City were able to find alternative ways to space out customers and visitors with all the open space in the Black Hills.
“Like I tell everyone we’ve been socially distancing in the Black Hills forever, that’s what we have that is attractive to people,” said Julie Schmitz, the President and CEO of Visit Rapid City. “And they saw it the drive market, especially saw it, even some of the fly market saw it. And so our numbers, our occupancy like two weeks ago was 78 percent compared to 83 percent a year ago so we are just pleasantly surprised.”
The number one industry in Rapid City is visitor dollars. Making campgrounds, national parks and national monuments available to the public. Families from all over the country came to see what South Dakota has to offer.
“I think in a lot of respects we are on everybody’s bucket list, and the fact is this was the year for them to do a bucket list thing that kept them socially isolated from others,” Schmitz said. “And that’s what they did, I mean we’re not out of the hole but I’ll tell you what we are way better than we thought we might be.”
One way the Black Hills keeps track of how many people visit this side of the state by the number of people who park at Mount Rushmore, this years total was up 16 percent from last year.
And although the official numbers are unknown at this time, Jensen says Rapid City is only down a little over 20 percent in revenue compared to this time last year.