At Mount Rushmore, a colossal monument carved into a granite mountain, depicting four U.S. presidents

South Dakota’s Visitor Spending Hits Record $4.96 Billion in 2023

A recent detailed analysis of visitor spending in every county in South Dakota shows that visitor spending is 21% higher than pre-pandemic levels (2019) and 4.9% higher than 2022 numbers.

South Dakota, located in the North Central region of the United States, is often referred to as the land of infinite variety.

The state is famous for Mount Rushmore, a colossal monument carved into a granite mountain, depicting four U.S. presidents.

It’s also home to the historic town of Deadwood, linked to the Gold Rush, and the stunning Badlands National Park, known for its sharply eroded buttes and pinnacles.

The state is also part of the Great Plains and boasts more miles of shoreline than the state of Florida.

The region’s rich Native American heritage, particularly of the Sioux tribe, is celebrated throughout.

South Dakota offers a blend of historical sites, natural beauty, and American culture, making it a unique destination for travelers.

Minnehaha County (29.3%) and Pennington County (19.3%) make up the largest share of visitor spending in South Dakota. Both the Southeast and Black Hills and Badlands regions are nearing $2 billion in visitor spending annually, with each exceeding $1.9 billion in 2023.

“People visit South Dakota from all over to enjoy our Freedom, experience the beauty of our open prairies, explore our parks, fish our waters, hunt our fields, and stand in awe at our monuments,” said Governor Kristi Noem.

“Tourism is our second largest industry. And when tourism thrives, it helps our communities, businesses, and families succeed and flourish.”

A couple walking in Badlands
Badlands, Photo by Byron Banasiak, TravelSouthDakota

The Black Hills and Badlands region experienced the strongest year-over-year visitor spending growth, exceeding 2022 visitor spending levels by 5.8%, an increase of more than $104 million. Custer, Lawrence, Haakon, and Jackson counties all exceeded 10% growth for the year.

The Southeast region also experienced strong visitor spending growth with a 5.2% increase, exceeding 2022 levels by nearly $100 million.

The Glacial Lakes and Prairies region grew visitor spending by 2.9% to reach just under $700 million and increasing over the prior year by almost $20 million. Brown County made up 29% of the spending for this region at almost $200 million.

Tourists walking on the pathway overlooking Roughlock Falls
Roughlock Falls, Photo by Byron Banasiak, TravelSouthDakota

The Missouri River region led all regions in growth compared to 2019 spending levels, with visitor spending growing by 24%. The region also experienced a 3% increase when compared to 2022, exceeding the prior year’s visitor spending by $11.2 million. Hughes County experienced the most visitor spending activity in the region, reaching $97 million and making up 25% of the region’s total.

In 2023, visitor spending in South Dakota reached a record high of $4.96 billion, a 4.9% increase over 2022.

“Our industry has so much to be proud of,” said Hagen.

“This industry supported more than 57,000 jobs and provided 2.2 billion dollars in household income to South Dakota families. These visitors and their dollars support diners, marinas, hotels and attractions in communities large and small in South Dakota.”

The South Dakota Department of Tourism is comprised of Travel South Dakota and the South Dakota Arts Council. The department is led by Secretary James D. Hagen.

Photos by TravelSouthDakota

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