COVID-19 Research Update


October 9, 2020

Happy Friday, Industry Friends!

It’s hard to believe we are already well into October. We continue to hear reports from visitors who have enjoyed their stay with us and how impressed they were with our beautiful state and the friendly faces who welcomed them. Here is one comment we received just this morning: “Seriously, not only is SD beautiful but I found the people to be extremely friendly. Sadly our visit was only 2 days but of course 1 day was spent at Mt. Rushmore which is more splendid than I imagined. Everything we rated got high scores from the highways , to the crisp clear air, bright green trees and the blue sky. If the Lord above agrees, I will definitely return with more time to enjoy such beauty.” What a great way to start the day!

As you know, the South Dakota Legislature met in Special Session this past Monday to provide their input on CARES Act funds. We are happy to report that with the strong support of Governor Noem and the Legislature, funds were allocated to the Department of Tourism for marketing and for marketing assistance to DMOs impacted by COVID-19. The DMOs in our state will be receiving a toolkit with directions about how to apply for marketing assistance funds. The toolkit is being reviewed by legal counsel and should be approved soon.

There are also other relief programs available for small businesses in our state. Just this afternoon, Governor Noem’s Office shared information about relief programs for small businesses (up to $400 million in assistance), small non-profit businesses (up to $40 million in assistance), and small start-up businesses (up to $10 million in assistance). You can read the governor's press release here. You will find additional details about each of these programs at this link. Applications for these small business relief funds will open at 8:00 AM on Tuesday, October 13th, and will continue until Friday, October 23rd. Please visit the website as soon as possible and contact the phone number listed if you have any questions about whether or not you are eligible for these funds.

We also want to inform you that going forward, we will not be sending a separate COVID-19 Bi-Weekly Research Report, but plan to provide a link to our research update within our monthly Mile Marker email.

Here is the latest in our COVID-19 Research Update:

  • For the week ending October 3rd, national travel spending tallied $12.9 billion, which was 5% higher than last week. It is the greatest non-holiday-assisted spending increase since June. However, it was still down 42% below last year’s levels (a $9.3 billion loss last week alone).
  • Travel spending in South Dakota for the week of October 3rd was down 21%, tied with Wyoming for best in the region (-31% in North Dakota, -30% in Iowa, -42% in Minnesota).
  • South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana had the lowest declines when it came to domestic travel bookings, outperforming the rest of the country.
  • Road travel improved significantly from the previous two weeks and is nearing pre-pandemic levels that are comparable to October 2019. Road travel was down 8.2% year-over-year, which is its best performance in any week since COVID-19 hit.
  • Those who are “already traveling” expressed nearly three times as much confidence in their ability to travel safely right now than the average survey respondent (76% vs 27%).
  • The number of respondents who will take a domestic leisure trip during the next six months hit yet another high with 45% stating they are at least “somewhat likely” to do so. 57% of respondents shared they are in a “ready to travel” state of mind.
  • We continue to see shorter planning cycles with many visitors arriving in South Dakota within 30 days of seeing our marketing.
  • Business travel safety perceptions have jumped significantly in recent weeks with 26% of Americans stating they would attend an off-site business meeting.

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.

Again, thank you for all you do to welcome our visitors and keep them safe during their stay with us. As always, please continue to be diligent about your health, safety and hygiene protocols. These are of the utmost importance to visitors. You can access our health and hygiene resource page at

Please take a moment to let us know how you are doing and if there is anything we can do for you. I can be reached at [email protected]. We appreciate the great work being done by our industry in this challenging time. THANK YOU for everything!

All our best,
Jim & Team

Jim Hagen
Secretary of Tourism



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