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. Two 2021 awards were presented to Susan Johnson (Deadwood) and Jim Hagen.

    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 Matt Meltzer (Matador Network).
  • 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. Prairie Berry Winery & Miner Brewing Company (Hill City and Sioux Falls) and Rush Mountain Adventure Park (Keystone) were named the winners for 2020.
  • The Ruth Ziolkowski Outstanding Hospitality & Customer Service Awards recognize members of the South Dakota tourism industry who have displayed remarkable hospitality and customer service. Lindsey Myers (Visit Rapid City), Ryan Friez (Thunder Road, Sioux Falls), Debra Knodel (Governor's Inn), and Lora Schaunaman (Dacotah Prairie Museum) were recognized for 2020.
  • The George S. Mickelson Award honors a business or organization that promotes outstanding hospitality and customer service training for its employees. The 2020 award was presented to Big Thunder Gold Mine (Keystone).
  • The inaugural Governor's Tourism Rising Star Award will be presented in January 2022.


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].