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 2019 award was presented to Dennis and Sherry Povondra (Tabor).

    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 2019 award was Mike Tanner (Watertown).
  • The 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 Wylie Park and Storybook Land (Aberdeen) was named the winner for 2018.
  • The Ruth Ziolkowski Outstanding Hospitality & Customer Service Awards recognize members of the South Dakota tourism industry who have displayed remarkable hospitality and customer service. Amanda Allcock (Crazy Horse), Inez Muilenburg (Huron), Nova Steinhauser (Platte), and Jaqueline Wentworth (Sioux Falls) were recognized for 2018.
  • The George S. Mickelson Great Service Award honors a business or organization that promotes outstanding hospitality and customer service training for its employees. Two awards for 2018 were presented to Reptile Gardens (Rapid City) and the Swiftel Center (Brookings).


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

To learn more about the George S. Mickelson Great Service Award, please see the Great Service Star Designation page. (Applications are available in August with the deadline being in October.)

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



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