PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota’s tourism industry held its own when compared to other states during the COVID-19 pandemic. During a Thursday address, Governor Kristi Noem and Jim Hagen, Secretary of the Department of Tourism, revealed 2020 tourism economic impact numbers.

According to the annual study done by Tourism Economics, South Dakota welcomed 12.6 million visitors, a decrease of only 13% from the year before. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, South Dakota was one of the best performing states in the country.

Visitors to South Dakota spent $3.4 billion, a decline of only 18%. For comparison, on average, visitor spending was down 45% across the country. Through the summer months, South Dakota ranked third-best in the country in domestic bookings.

Spending generated by visitors flowed through the economy and contributed $2.6 billion in GDP, accounting for 4.7% of the state’s economy.

“South Dakota’s tourism industry faced many challenges in 2020. They adapted and turned it into an incredible year,” noted Noem. “Because of their efforts, we were able to put more than 3 billion dollars into South Dakota’s economy and set the state up for a very bright future.”

“Though the tourism industry has always been resilient, 2020 proved it more than ever,” said Jim Hagen, Secretary of the Department of Tourism. “Tourism in South Dakota is a job-creating, revenue-generating industry that plays a vital role in supporting the state’s economy year after year. And it didn’t just make a difference for the state’s bottom line. This money greatly impacts communities and families across South Dakota.”

In 2020, tourism generated $276 million in state & local tax revenue. Without tourism in South Dakota, each household would pay an additional $780 more in taxes each year.

2020 Economic Impact Figures:

  • 12.6 million – the number of visitors that came to South Dakota. Despite the pandemic, South Dakota saw a decline of only 13% from the previous year.
  • $3.4 billion – the amount of visitor spending, a decrease of 18%
  • $2.6 billion – the amount of GDP contributed to the state’s economy, representing 4.7% of the South Dakota economy
  • $276 million – the state and local tax dollars generated by travel and tourism activity. Tourism accounts for 11% of state sales tax collections.
  • $157 million – amount of tax revenue collected by local governments from travel and tourism activity
  • $119 million – amount of tax revenue collected by the State of South Dakota from travel and tourism activity
  • $780 – the amount of tax dollars each South Dakota household saves because of the tourism industry
  • 49,500 – number of jobs supported by the tourism industry, representing one out of 12 jobs in South Dakota. Tourism generated $1.6 billion in income for those employed in those jobs.

Additional 2020 travel indicators:

  • 46.3% – average hotel occupancy for the year, surpassing the national average of 44.7%
  • 3.9 million – the number of hotel room nights booked in 2020
  • 883,000 – number of room nights booked on AirBNB or Homeaway in 2020, a 22.3% increase
  • 8 million – number of visitors to South Dakota’s state parks, representing a 31% increase.
  • 2 million – visitors to Custer State Park, reaching the 2 million mark for the first time in history
  • 408,000 – airport arrivals at Sioux Falls and Rapid City Regional Airports, a 48% decrease

To view the full 2020 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 James Hagen.


*Source: Tourism Economics, AirDNA


  • All stats reflect calendar year 2020 numbers over 2019 unless otherwise noted.


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