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South Dakota’s Visitor Industry Sets All-Time Records for Visitor Spending and Economic Growth in 2015


PIERRE, S.D. – Record visitor spending in 2015 translates into the largest impact South Dakota’s economy has ever seen from the visitor industry.

According to a study by Tourism Economics,* visitor spending reached $3.78 billion in 2015, supporting a total of $5.9 billion in business sales in the state and contributing $2.4 billion in GDP to South Dakota’s economy. Tourism’s contribution to the state economy grew 6.1 percent in 2015. These dollars flow through the South Dakota economy, supporting more than 52,000 jobs and generating more than $270 million in state and local tax revenue.

Visitor spending increases were being seen early on in the peak tourism season and late into the fall, making for a solid year for tourism businesses across the state. In addition, the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo Roundup played a significant role in media coverage, visitation and ultimately spending.

“Everything we do, from national parades, to social media, to media relations efforts, to traditional marketing, comes together to make a difference,” said Jim Hagen, Secretary of the Department of Tourism. “These numbers are proof that all of the tourism industry’s efforts are paying off in a huge way.”

Additional 2015 indicators and economic impact stats:

  • 13.7 million – number of visitors that came to South Dakota
  • 2.1 percent - increase in hotel occupancy (outpaced national occupancy growth of 1.8%)
  • 1.5 million – number of visits to
  • 21 million – number of emails delivered to travelers interested in South Dakota
  • $12.6 million – amount of advertising value earned through domestic and international public relations efforts
  • 4.2 million – record-setting number of visitors to South Dakota’s national parks
    • 1 million of these visitors were in July alone
  • 700,000 – Number of people who stopped at the Interstate Information Centers

“Gas prices are predicted to stay low and surveys show that Americans continue to plan to take their family vacations in the new year,” said Gov. Dennis Daugaard. “Add in the centennial of the National Park Service and the 75 year anniversary of Mt. Rushmore’s completion, and we know that South Dakota will draw thousands of visitors to our parks and to our state in 2016.”

To view the full Tourism Economics report, visit

The South Dakota Department of Tourism is comprised of Tourism and the South Dakota Arts Council. The Department is led by Secretary Jim Hagen.



Wanda Goodman
South Dakota Department of Tourism
Phone: 605-773-3301