Tourism Awards

Each January during the annual South Dakota Governor's Conference on Tourism, awards are presented to outstanding members or organizations that have contributed to the state's tourism industry.

  • The Ben Black Elk Award is presented to an individual or individuals who have made outstanding contributions to South Dakota's tourism industry. The 2023 award was presented posthumously to Julie Schmitz Jensen (Rapid City).

    Read more about the Ben Black Elk Award and see the display at the Department of Tourism.

  • The A.H. Pankow Award honors a member of the media or public relations industry who has shown superior interest in and coverage of the South Dakota tourism industry. The recipient of the 2022 award was Kevin Kjergaard (Sioux Falls).
  • The Peter Norbeck Excellence in Tourism Innovation Award honors a South Dakota tourism industry partner for innovative marketing, special promotions, or improvements to their business or attraction. The South Dakota Chislic Festival (Freeman) was named the winner for 2022.
  • The Ruth Ziolkowski Outstanding Hospitality & Customer Service Awards recognize members of the South Dakota tourism industry who have displayed remarkable hospitality and customer service. Troy Magnuson (Mitchell), Lisa Marotz (Brookings), Lori Owens (Fort Pierre), and Ann Thompson (Rapid City) were recognized for 2022.
  • The Governor's Tourism Rising Star Award recognizes an individual who has worked in the South Dakota tourism industry for 2-4 years, is excelling at their job and will make a positive difference in the years to come. The 2023 award was presented to Shelby Solano (Rapid City).
  • The George S. Mickelson Award honors a business or organization that promotes outstanding hospitality and customer service training for its employees. The 2022 award was presented to Shady Rest Motel (Custer).


For nomination information about the Tourism Awards, please go to the Tourism Awards Nominations page.

To learn more about the George S. Mickelson Award, see the South Dakota Great Place Program page and the George S. Mickelson Award page. 

For a list of all those previously recognized with Tourism Awards, see the page with Past Winners.



For more information, please contact Jim Hagen at 605-773-3301 or [email protected].