Buffalo tours at Custer State Park. Photo: Herb Ryan Photography – 2017


PIERRE, S.D. – In 2017, visitor spending in South Dakota reached $3.85 billion, resulting in $2.59 billion in GDP and more than $290 million in state and local tax revenue. It was the eighth straight year of record growth in the state. A recent analysis shows that more than half of the counties in South Dakota saw an increase in visitor spending over 2016.

The detailed analysis, done by Tourism Economics, indicates a majority of visitor activity took place in Minnehaha, Pennington, Lawrence, Brown and Custer counties, making up 66 percent of all visitor spending. While these five counties received the majority of spending from visitors in 2017, more than half of the counties in South Dakota saw an increase over 2016. The counties that experienced the largest year-over-year growth were Sully (8.7 percent), Lincoln (5.9 percent), Hutchinson (5.2 percent), Lake (5.1 percent), and Aurora (4.8 percent).

“The impact these visitors have on communities across our state is significant. These visitors come to enjoy the beauty of our open prairies, fish our pristine lakes and abundant rivers, hunt our bountiful fields and stand in awe at our monuments. These visitors support the diners, marinas, hotels and attractions in communities large and small. Tourism is and always will be an incredibly important part of the South Dakota economy,” said James Hagen, Secretary of the Department of Tourism.

Along with other industries, the tourism industry felt the indirect effects of a struggling agriculture economy across the Midwest and the decreased discretionary income of households in the region.

“Despite local and regional challenges, our visitors return year after year to experience our well-known hospitality and diverse tourism offerings,” said Hagen. “Hospitality workers and residents all go out of their way to welcome visitors, and that’s what sets us apart from our competition,” continued Hagen.

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