PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Department of Tourism is encouraging anyone interested in tourism, marketing and hospitality to join the 2019 Governor’s Conference on Tourism Jan. 15-17 in Pierre.

“This year’s theme, State of Great, celebrates the tourism industry’s remarkable accomplishments, what we strive to be year in and year out, and our excitement to build upon our success into the coming year,” said James Hagen, Secretary of the Department of Tourism. “This conference is an excellent opportunity to gain inspiration and prepare for another monumental year of tourism in the state.”

The annual conference brings nearly 600 people from across South Dakota and the United States together in Pierre to celebrate successes, network with peers and educate themselves on trends in the travel and hospitality business.

“Our upcoming conference features an impressive lineup of nationally known travel and tourism leaders, hospitality speakers and industry experts,” said Hagen. “Speakers will touch on topics such as marketing trends, customer service and pressing issues in the tourism industry.”

The closing banquet, held Thursday, Jan. 17, honors and recognizes industry members for their contributions to tourism in the state. The following awards will be presented:

  • The Ben Black Elk Award recognizes an individual or group whose hard work, passion and enthusiasm have greatly influenced South Dakota’s visitor industry.
  • The A.H. Pankow Award recognizes a member of the media whose coverage and promotion of the state’s visitor industry is unparalleled.
  • The George S. Mickelson Great Service Award honors two businesses/organizations that show an outstanding dedication to excellence in customer service.
  • The Excellence in Tourism Innovation Award honors an industry member or business for thinking “outside the box” when it comes to promoting their business and elevating the visitor experience.
  • The Rooster Rush Cacklin’ Community Award honors a community for fostering support of the Department of Tourism’s fall Rooster Rush campaign.
  • The Ruth Ziolkowski Outstanding Hospitality & Customer Service Awards recognize individuals who provide remarkable customer service and demonstrate an outstanding spirit of hospitality, warmth and genuine kindness to visitors.

For more information about the conference or to register, visit

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


Media notes:

A downloadable graphic representing the theme for the conference is available here:


Katlyn Richter, Global Media & Public Relations Director
South Dakota Department of Tourism
Phone: 605-773-3301
Email: [email protected]