COVID-19 Research Update


April 16, 2021

Hello, Tourism Friends!

Happy Spring! Despite what the calendar says, Old Man Winter doesn’t seem quite ready to let go of his grip and is giving us one last blast of cold. In spite of the cold temperatures, things are heating up in the travel and tourism world as visitors begin warming up to hitting the road again after a long year of being homebound.

Here is the latest news from our monthly COVID-19 research update:

  • South Dakota is seeing major interest from consumers across the country. Web traffic as a whole is up (+66%) CYTD and many of our regional markets are showing significant increases, such as Chicago (+176%), Omaha (+223%), Denver (+127%), Milwaukee (+236%) and Dallas/Fort Worth (+125%), as well as markets like Houston (+174%), Phoenix (+104%) and Atlanta (+108%).
  • According to the latest Longwoods International study, 88% of Americans now have travel plans in the next six months, the highest level in more than a year.
  • The majority of Americans (61%) plan to travel this coming June or July.
  • 57% of Americans state they are unlikely to visit a tourism attraction or business which does not have clear COVID safety protocols in place, such as mask requirements and social distancing.
  • After peaking two weeks ago at 60%, national hotel occupancy has leveled off slightly to 57.9% for the week ending April 3.
  • Travel conversations across social media have leapt forward from talking about wanting to travel to actively booking a getaway or are already being on vacation. Now is the time to ramp up your marketing to increase awareness about your business or destination while prospective travelers are still in the consideration phase of travel planning.
  • Almost half of all travelers are waiting longer to book their vacation this year. Research is showing the booking-to-actual traveling window is as short as four weeks.
  • Print and video marketing resources have become more valued as destination inspiration tools as the pandemic has advanced.
  • The interest in road trips shows no signs of slowing down as it actually surpassed 2019 levels on Friday, April 2. Visitors are hitting the road again!
  • Out-of-state visitors and residents alike continue to experience the great outdoors in South Dakota. State park visitation is already off to a strong start this spring, surpassing 2020 levels by 22%. Fishing and hunting licenses are also showing continued growth, with resident licenses up 17.1% and non-resident licenses up 45.2%.
  • Overall net sentiment levels about travel have reached pre-pandemic levels – indicating positivity across the travel sector.
  • Air travel is slowly making a rebound, but there is still significant improvement to be made to regain overall share.
  • The appeal of attending in-person meetings has improved, as over 54% of business travelers say they would be happy if their employer asked them to attend an in-person conference, convention or group meeting in the next six months. The majority of these travelers would feel comfortable traveling this summer or fall.

Thank you to our research partners for providing this information: H2R Market Research, UberMediaTourism Economics, Destination Analysts, STR, U.S. Travel Association, Arrivalist, Miles Partnership, MMGY Travel Intelligence, ADARA, and Longwoods International.

Just a friendly reminder that for this year’s annual spring update to the industry, the South Dakota Department of Tourism will present a prerecorded webinar. Staff will share the latest updates on public relations outreach, social media campaigns, travel trade work, peak 2021 marketing efforts, National Travel & Tourism Week plans, and Spring Hospitality Training. The 90-minute webinar will be shown twice — Tuesday, April 20 (10 a.m. Central/9 a.m. Mountain), and Wednesday, April 21 (10 a.m. Central/9 a.m. Mountain). At the end of each webinar, you can proceed to five different LIVE Zoom chat rooms allowing industry members to visit with different Tourism teams (Global Media & Public Relations; Global Marketing & Brand Strategy; Global Travel & Trade; Industry Outreach, Development & Research; or Secretary Jim Hagen and Deputy Secretary Wanda Goodman). Participants will be able to select which chat room they wish to join. Each Zoom chat room will be open for up to 60 minutes. Feel free to stop by as many chat rooms as you’d like and have time for.

The webinar, as well as the links to the Zoom chat rooms, can be accessed both days by going to Please let us know if you have any questions about the webinar. You can always reach me at [email protected].

Stay well, friends! We hope to see you soon.

All our best,
Jim & Team

Jim Hagen
Secretary of Tourism



Department of Tourism COVID-19 Resource Page
State of South Dakota COVID-19 website