By Kimberly Talcott
January 19, 2017
SPEARFISH – Students from Black Hills State University worked with the city of Keystone Chamber of Commerce recently to increase awareness of Keystone, SD as a primary tourism destination in the Black Hills and to increase the length of tourists’ stays.
Over the course of a semester, students in Dr. Ignatius Cahyanto’s Tourism Planning and Development course completed a comprehensive tourism development plan for the town that Mt. Rushmore calls home.
Kirk Hulstein, industry outreach and development director for the South Dakota Department of Tourism, attended the students’ presentation. He said, as a result of the students’ work, Keystone community members walk away with actionable steps they can implement to maximize their potential and position themselves as a tourism destination.
“This type of in-depth research is invaluable as the students take a deep dive approach into the community’s unique opportunities and challenges and provide honest feedback about how visitors perceive their community,” said Hulstein.
The students conducted visitor and resident surveys, interviewed key informants, and tracked online activity throughout the semester. Students also completed a marketing analysis and a plan of action to implement their recommendations.
Jesse Gramm, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Burlington, Colo., said this project was especially meaningful because tourism is so important to the state of South Dakota.
“This project better prepared me for my future job by providing me an opportunity to get hands-on experience outside the classroom by working with a real community and preparing a detailed proposal,” said Gramm.
The students also competed an environmental analysis looking at industry, economic and technology trends with impact on Keystone.
Several strengths for Keystone that emerged from the analysis included the lodging accommodations, food and beverage options, and outdoor landscape, along with proximity to Mount Rushmore. A key challenge the students noted was that Keystone is known to tourists as only a daytrip, not an overnight destination. Survey results also noted limits on parking space.
“We suggested the use of parking meters to fund and perhaps expand parking options in the future,” said Gramm.
The BHSU students provided suggestions for Keystone including increasing winter sports, adding additional outdoor recreation areas, marketing Keystone as “the Black Hills Hub,” and incorporating bus tours. Key recommendations by the students included outdoor map design, Snapchat Geofilters, and landmarks or outdoor frames for photo opportunities.
Cameron Fullerton, operations manager for Rushmore Tramway Adventures, attended the students’ final presentation. He said the customer survey portion of the students’ work was the most impactful.
“This information has helped Rushmore Tramway Adventures rethink the placement of our promotions. We have been utilizing many platforms but the direction has lacked purpose and this project helped redirect our efforts,” said Fullerton. “It has been very valuable working with these students since they carry fresh perspectives. Without fresh perspectives, it is easy to continue plans that may be outdated and ineffective.”
BHSU students who worked on the project included:
Heidi Huether, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Wall
Jessie Gramm, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Burlington, Colo.
Kie Tatsukawa, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Japan
Michael Cook, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Gillette, Wyo.
Logan Miller, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Chester
Max Bergstrom, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Sturgis
The BHSU School of Business Tourism and Hospitality Management Program will conduct a similar community-based project in fall 2017 and is currently looking for a partner community. Communities interested in partnering with BHSU to develop a strategic plan to foster tourism in their community should contact Dr. Ignatius Cahyanto, assistant professor and program coordinator, at Ignatius.Cahyanto@BHSU.edu or 605-642-6876.