Industry Attains Nine Straight Years of Growth

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota tourism industry has grown again for the ninth straight year, reaching record levels of visitors, visitor spending and impact on the state’s economy.

According to a new study by Tourism Economics, visitor spending in South Dakota totaled $3.98 billion, an increase of 2.5 percent over the previous year. Visitation to the state grew to 14.1 million visitors, an increase of 1.4 percent over 2017. These dollars flowed through the economy and contributed $2.66 billion in GDP, an increase of 2.5 percent.

“Tourism is an incredibly important industry in our state, and we are excited to see yet another year of growth,” said James Hagen, Secretary of the Department of Tourism. “Our targeted marketing, extensive media coverage, public relations outreach and the hard work of our industry members contributed to this success. Tourism is an economic engine for the state, employing nearly 55,000 South Dakotans and generating 11 percent of state sales tax collections.”

In 2018, tourism generated $298 million in state and local tax revenue. Without tourism in South Dakota, each household would pay an additional $865 more in taxes each year.

The department partnered with Longwoods International, a renowned tourism research company, to measure the return on investment of the department’s marketing. The findings showed that the new marketing campaign efforts for 2018 proved to be a worthwhile investment, with a return of $3 in state tax revenue generated for every $1 spent on tourism marketing.

2018 economic impact stats*:

  • $3.98 billion – amount of visitor spending, an increase of 2.5 percent
  • 14.1 million – number of visitors that came to South Dakota, an increase of 1.4 percent
  • $2.66 billion – amount of GDP contributed to the state’s economy, an increase of 2.5 percent, representing 5.2 percent of the South Dakota economy.
  • $298 million – state and local tax dollars generated by travel and tourism activity, an increase of $7 million
  • $865 – the amount of tax dollars each South Dakota household saves because of the tourism industry
  • 54,723 – number of jobs sustained by the tourism industry, 8.9 percent of all South Dakota jobs

Additional 2018 travel indicators:

  • 58 percent – average hotel occupancy for the year
  • 11.5 million – number of visitors to South Dakota’s state and national parks
  • 12.4 million – number of hotel room nights booked in 2018
  • 783,000 – airport arrivals at Sioux Falls and Rapid City Regional Airports
  • $69.9 million – amount of advertising value earned through domestic and international public relations efforts in calendar year 2018
  • 5.25 billion – number of impressions earned through domestic and international public relations efforts in calendar year 2018

To view the full Tourism Economics and Longwoods International reports, 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

Media Notes:

  • All stats reflect calendar year 2018 numbers over 2017 unless otherwise noted


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