COVID-19 Research Update


September 11, 2020

Hello, Industry Friends and Happy September!

We hope this email finds you well and gearing up for the fall shoulder season. The cool statewide temperatures this week, and the snowfall in the Black Hills on Tuesday, remind us that autumn is indeed around the corner. With the changing of the season, we are excited to host visitors this weekend to the Sanford Invitational in Sioux Falls, the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup at the end of the month, and pheasant hunters in October. Please be sure and join us in giving a warm welcome to all of our guests!

Before we get to our latest research, we want to share that Governor Noem announced on Wednesday that she will be providing $400 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to assist South Dakota’s small businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find some details about the program here. The application process will open on Monday, October 12th and close on Friday, October 23rd. Grants may be awarded up to $100,000 per qualifying business. When we get more details about the program and the application process, we will get those to you right away.

Here are highlights from the bi-weekly COVID-19 Research Report:

  • GREAT NEWS to begin with: South Dakota led the nation in travel searches this past week, increasing by 11% from the same week in 2019. Nationally, searches were down 53% compared to last year.
  • September month-to-date, South Dakota is up +1% for road trips when compared to 2019.
  • This past Labor Day weekend, Mount Rushmore National Memorial experienced the largest increase in visitation since August 10th.
  • For the week ending August 29th, national travel spending is down -43% year-over-year. Spending in South Dakota was down -26%.
  • As seen in the Arrivalist data presented on slide 12 in the report, May 22nd marked a critical turning point for travel to South Dakota. Visitation really began to pick up in our state at that time and continued to grow throughout the summer.
  • 49% of Americans who traveled this summer said their trip inspired more confidence that they can travel safely right now.
  • 39% of Americans expressed a likelihood of staying in a hotel while 28% plan to stay in a vacation home or condo.
  • Of all jobs lost during the pandemic, 34% of them have been in the leisure and hospitality industry.
  • The perception of travel activities as unsafe is the lowest it has been since June 15th.
  • Fall travel expectations improved from 30% the previous week to 36%.
  • 47% of Americans believe their companies will begin traveling for business sometime after April 2021.

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

Now, more than ever, we must be diligent in keeping our businesses, your employees, and our guests safe and healthy while they are in South Dakota. Please reference our health and hygiene resource page on to view tips on health and hygiene protocols.

As always, please let us know if we can be of any assistance in the days and weeks ahead. I can be reached at [email protected]. Have a great weekend!

All our best,
Jim & Team

Jim Hagen
Secretary of Tourism



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