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 2020 award was presented to Teri Schmidt (Sioux Falls).

    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 2020 award was 605 Magazine (Sioux Falls).
  • 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. Historic Deadwood was named the winner for 2019.
  • The Ruth Ziolkowski Outstanding Hospitality & Customer Service Awards recognize members of the South Dakota tourism industry who have displayed remarkable hospitality and customer service. Dan Miller (Bramble Park Zoo), Shirley Wetz (Sturgis Buffalo Chip), Kathi Anderson (Arrowwood Conference Center at Cedar Shore), and Kasi Haberman (Yankton CVB) were recognized for 2019.
  • The George S. Mickelson Great Service Award honors a business or organization that promotes outstanding hospitality and customer service training for its employees. The 2019 award was presented to The Howard Johnson Inn & Suites (Rapid City).


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 Harla Jessop at 605-773-3301 or [email protected].