Weekly COVID-19 Research Update and New Marketing Plans


May 22, 2020

Happy Friday and Happy Memorial Day weekend, Tourism friends!

As we think about this solemn and sacred holiday, and of the sacrifices (and ultimate sacrifice) made by so many men and women to ensure our liberties, let’s not forget to count our many, many blessings during this trying time. We are so fortunate to live in this country, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Here is the COVID-19 Weekly Update with the latest research and insights from our research partners.

A few things worth noting this week:

  • Road Trips to and within South Dakota increased 8.7% when compared to the prior week. Travelers who said they are changing their destination to a drive destination increased from 22% to 26% this week.
  • South Dakota’s actual hotel occupancy averaged 19.9% in April, a 56.6% decrease from last year, while US average occupancy declined by 64%.
  • For those who plan to travel in 2020, 56% indicated they plan to travel in August–October. It should be noted that roughly 30% still have no plans to travel in 2020.
  • Website traffic to TravelSouthDakota.com has again increased significantly (58%) this past week when compared to the prior year. It's a good sign that South Dakota is well positioned to capture market share due to affordability, beautiful state and national parks, wide open spaces, and being known as a popular road trip destination.

Thank you to our research partners for providing this information: Tourism Economics, Destination Analysts, STR, U.S. Travel Association, Arrivalist, Miles Partnership, MMGY Travel Intelligence, ADARA, and Longwoods International.

As shared last week, we shifted our marketing into a major new phase, from inspiring to now more openly courting and inviting visitors to experience our Great Places. Based upon consumer insights we have been tracking meticulously since mid-March, the time is right to step into this new phase.

  • States, cities, and businesses are opening up across the country and in some of our target markets.
  • 56.4% of locals now report being happy at the sight of an ad promoting their home according to Destination Analysts (compared to only 30.8% two weeks ago).
  • Traffic to TravelSouthDakota.com is up 105% over the same time last month.

The shift means an update to our ongoing message, calls-to-action (CTAs) and tactics. CTAs like "At Your Own Speed" and "Ready When You Are" reinforce that South Dakota is open, ready, and waiting for potential visitors, when the time is right for them. The new phase also brings more high-inspirational channels like TV, Out-of-Home (OOH) and direct mail back into the mix. These efforts join the high-intent channel efforts like search, targeted digital, our Travelsmart emails and social that we kept active for those still planning during the pandemic.

While the high-intent efforts continue to target a national audience, new initiatives in phase two will target a regional drive market 500 miles or less from South Dakota. Primary markets will no longer include Dallas or Chicago and instead will focus on cities like Minneapolis, Omaha, and Denver. Our efforts will see a little less focus on families in the shortened peak travel season and more on our Wanderers and Searchers audiences that crave bucket-list experiences and exploring the outdoors.

To break down our phases, our shifts in message, tactics and markets — plus the criteria we base our decisions upon from one phase to the next — please see our "Great Places are Waiting" one-sheeter.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend! Please let us know if we can be of assistance with anything.

All our very best,
Jim & Team

Jim Hagen
Secretary of Tourism



Department of Tourism COVID-19 Resource Page
State of South Dakota COVID-19 website